In Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, Douglas Hofstadter (and a crew of talented students) argue that analogy-making is a core characteristic of human intelligence. The book is full of delightful puzzles. One class of puzzle goes like this:

  • What is the Ob of Nebraska? (The Platte. Hence the name for these: Ob-Platte puzzles)

  • What is the Newark of Delaware?

  • What is the Gettysburg of Hawaii?

The authors write:

If one were to ask, “What is the Atlantic City of France?”, a large number of people would undoubtedly answer “Monaco”, even knowing full well that Monaco is not a city inside France, but rather an independent, albeit small, country that is not in France, but borders it (the gambling city within Monaco is Monte Carlo). However, Monaco is world-famous for its casinos, is small enough to be thought of as a city, and like Atlantic City, is located on the sea.

I’m working on an Ob-Platte puzzle that you may be able to me with. It goes like this:

Who is the Andy Morikawa of Ann Arbor?

I’m working on the same puzzle for Berkeley, Boston, Providence, Portland, Seattle, Toronto, and a few other places where I’d like to convene a seminar on community information management. The first of these was held in Blacksburg, Virgina, during my recent visit there, and was successful because Andy Morikawa knew and invited all the right people. The Andy Morikawa of Blacksburg is a fellow at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance, and was until recently the executive director of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley.

Just as Monaco is not actually a city in France, the Andy Morikawa of Ann Arbor, Berkeley, and Providence might or might not be affiliated with the universities in those towns. Another Andy might be an independent community organizer, or a city councilor, or an economic development specialist, or the director of a nonprofit chartered to consolidate and promote cultural arts. He or she will certainly, though, be a well-known connector who has the ability to convene the kinds of folks I want to reach. They’ll come from the public schools, the colleges, the city government, the newspapers and online media, the music and dance scenes, the public library, the hospital, the chamber of commerce, the downtown merchants association, arts and culture nonprofits, social services organizations, sports leagues, environmental groups, and other centers of public life.

Crucially I am not looking for webmasters and IT staffers, but rather for leaders responsible for public engagement. The principles I’ll explain and demonstrate are ones that everyone can understand and apply. Once leaders understand what’s possible they can delegate to staff, but what they’ll delegate is nothing they couldn’t pretty easily do for themselves.

What makes this a tricky problem in social networking is that my best contacts are in the technical world, but I’m trying to reach outside it. That’s why I need an Andy to help me bridge the gap. If you are an Andy, or if you know an Andy, I’d really like to hear from you.