OPEN Summit

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been on a whirlwind.  And it began with my facilitation of OPEN Summit.  The first ever leadership gathering of the world’s leading Online Progressive Engagement Networks.  Think MoveOn.org as replicated in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Germany and Papua New Guinea.  The great (and unbelievably sweet) Ben Brandzel had been dreaming this up for years!

In terms of network theory, Ben had been the hub connecting to the global spokes.  He travelled from country to country, befriending like-minded souls and sharing all he had learned building networks like MoveOn and the Citizen Engagement Lab.  Here at IISC we teach, and Ben understood, that a “hub and spokes” network is actually quite weak, too dependent on its hub.  The solution was to weave the network together, to make it possible for the leadership of these global organizations to begin to rely on each other for learning and movement building.

It was such an honor to be invited into the design and facilitation of the space.  Even before I got there, as I worked with Ben, Simon Sheikh of GetUp! in Australia (now a Senate candidate there) and David Babbs of 38Degrees in the UK, it became clear that I was working with one of the most high performing groups of people that I have ever worked with.

Their brilliance helped me up my game, their commitment to justice a reminder of how real this work is, and the bigness of their hearts became a true inspiration.  The space reminded me of the peer progressivism that Stephen Johnson talks about in Future Perfect.  The commitment to creative disruption, to challenging the model itself, to thinking about adaptive change – all of it made me incredibly hopeful.

The group was whiter and more male than any of the groups I work with.  That’s a problem, and they know it – I trust they’ll do something about it.  We also had all kinds of guests come through the summit and bring their brilliance.  One of them was the legendary and awfully young Aaron Swartz, who passed away a day later and I still can’t wrap my head around that.

Everything has changed forever.  I often start my workshops or facilitation with an assertion of that statement.  The folks at OPEN Summit are stepping boldly into the future.  They are not philosophizing about it, they are out there, making contact, bridging online and offline, putting pressure on their governments, making it possible for people to lead.

In a world of immense challenges, with our very planet on the line, this is one of the more important things that could happen.  Stay engaged.

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