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Thursday Complexity Post
March 13, 2014

Complementary Commerce Cuts Ethnic Violence


In Indian Port cities that have enjoyed a long history of ethnic tolerance even as regions around them succumbed to violence, commerce may have provided the path to peace.


Saumitra Jha, an assistant professor of political economy at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who studies conflict among different social and ethnic groups, looked at the level of violence in medieval port cities in India, which tended to have greater ethnic diversity than other towns. He discovered that when differing groups provide each other with complementary goods and services, their cities are more peaceful.


He examined the history of Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, where they have interacted for more than 1,500 years. The two groups have done a lot of fighting, but they have also had peace, and Jha wanted to learn what conditions led to some long periods of tolerance and cooperation. His research showed that port cities were five times less prone to Hindu-Muslim riots between 1850 and 1950, and half as prone from 1950 to 1995. In the Gujarat state in India, port cities were 25 percent less likely than similar inland towns to experience violence in the ethnic rioting that swept the region in 2002. The medieval port city of Surat in Gujarat was peaceful during that upheaval.


Ancient city of Surat from

When a minority group, or group not native to the area, provided goods or services that couldn't be duplicated, peaceful coexistence was likely. In a paper in the American Political Science Review, Jha wrote that seventeenth century Muslims had something Hindus wanted. They had transoceanic trade routes, developed through religious pilgrimages. For millions of Muslims from all over the world, the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mohammed's birthplace in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, in a time-honored obligation. Jha writes that from the 700s through the 1800s the world's largest textile market was in Mecca during the Hajj. Ocean trade routes couldn't be stolen or replicated, Jha writes, so the Muslim dominance in Middle Eastern trade was valuable to Hindus, and made the two groups less prone to conflict.


Jha also found that institutions and organizations, especially those that emerged from historic ethnically diverse trade, can help counter conflict. For example, he writes, the Bhoras were Muslim traders who had promoted ethnic tolerance and community disaster relief as well as commerce through a well organized religious hierarchy. See Jha's paper on trade organizations and religious tolerance. The influence of such organizations is likely to have aided the historical and present day relatively peaceful coexistence of Muslim and Hindu in port cities in the Indian Ocean region. See a Stanford news release here.



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Tomorrow! Friday, March 14, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

The Emergence of African Rural University and Education in Uganda, South Africa and Detroit 
Guests: Patricia Seybold and Carol Gorelick



African Rural University in Uganda is a unique educational institution designed collaboratively by faculty, students, and the people ARU graduates will serve. It's an all women's university, and offers an innovative course in rural transformation, combining science and the humanities to serve the needs and aspirations of communities. ARU emphasizes community, entrepreneurship, creating social capital, sustainable development, and visionary leadership.


Patricia Seybold is an author and consultant with expertise in assessing how evolving technologies impact businesses and their customers. Her clients have included Amazon, GE, Fidelity, Cisco, Symantec, Citigroup, American Cancer Society, American Institute of Physics, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and many others. (See more about Patricia Seybold Group clients.) She is president of Boothbay Region Health & Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit committed to improving the health of Boothbay, Maine peninsula, where she lives, and CEO of the Patricia Seybold Group. Her books include Outside Innovation, The Customer Revolution,, which became an internet business classic. She has been on the board of the African rural University for eight years and wrote The Evolution of African Rural University. Visit her blog.  


Carol Gorelick is a facilitative leader of systemic change. As co-founder and Executive Director of ABC Connects, she is working in the U.S. and South Africa to develop school-community partnerships. She has worked in global companies, led a consultancy and NGO, and taught at Pace University and the University of Cape Town. ABC Connects is developing partnerships among education, families, corporations, government, not-for-profit organizations and academe. A $400,000 Kellogg grant provided initial funding for an action research pilot in South Africa and Detroit: Building Stronger Communities: Strengthening Schools. Carol is leveraging the ABC Connects pilot through a Society for Organizational Learning project: Connecting Pathways: Educating for the 21st Century. This initiative uses a community engagement framework to develop skills, talent and network competencies that people will need in the digital and innovation economy. Carol's publications include "It Takes a Village to Raise a School" for Reflections, The Society for Organizational Learning Journal. She is co-author of "Performance through Learning: Knowledge Management in Practice" and co-editor of a Butterworth-Heinemann series "Frontiers in Learning."   



Healthcare PlexusCalls

Wednesday, March 19, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Listening to the Patient 
Guest: Sally Okun 



The management of long-term chronic illness is a major challenge today, and much of the management is accomplished in the home, by patients and their families. PatientsLikeMe was founded in 2004 as a support and research-based social network, a place where patients can connect with other patients with the same illness, learn from others, and share what they themselves have learned.  

Audio from all PlexusCall series is available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


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