366: Live from … well, from Our World: Vision of the future surfaced in New York stirs readers’ hopes for community

ow! You filled our mailbag with reactions to our Live-from-New-York coverage of “change” and “transformation” explored at the Tools of Change 2009 conference in Times Square.

    So, first, let me show you a couple of examples of what these high-flown principles look like in the real world. All week, you heard about ideas like “surfing the tsunami” and “social community” in “new media.” Well, it’s really all about ordinary people seizing media tools to help form influential new communities. Want to see it in action? Take a look at two Web sites today — then we’ll turn this page over to our Reader Roundup as we normally do once a week.
    First, take a look at OurValues.org, which is facilitated by Dr. Wayne Baker as an experiment in American values. On that landing page this week, hundreds of people have considered Charles Darwin’s legacy. Over the past half a year, Dr. Baker has created this community at OurValues.org that’s extremely rare in American society — a place where men and women talk about hot-button issues with a reasonable degree of civility.
    Then — second — take a look at a new Web site with a much more focused purpose. A couple of talented young men are using it to unite people around the cause of an imprisoned woman. Her name is Connie. What’s important about this new site is that it’s just a couple of fairly ordinary citizens who’ve assembled this online presence.
    www.FreeConnie.com was built by Adam Reich, a clinical supervisor at the University of Southern
California Law School’s Post-Conviction Justice Project, along with Elliot Darvick, who is an independent “social media consultant” and also a full-time employee of an internet company. Yes, their professions gave them a good starting point for creating FreeConnie — but basically they’re just two citizens who felt strongly about an issue in their community and built a catalytic presence online to do something about it.
    Both of these Web sites are examples of what media and marketing gurus were talking about in New York all week at the Tools of Change 2009 conference.

    Care to jump back and read the highlights of this big, newsy week?
    Here are easy links to all 4 parts in the TOC2009 series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

READER RESPONSE 1: “Social Community — uhhh, Facilitator?”

    In a couple of stories this week, I described the emergence of a new kind of profession: the “Social Community Facilitator,” a phrase pushed by a speaker at TOC2009. Our single biggest flow of Email came in response to this idea.
    “All I know — we definitely need these kind of people! I Emailed a link to your story to my boss this morning! Maybe he’ll read it and finally get the idea that the community actually matters!!!” a college official on the West Coast told me in an Email mid-week. “But we can’t call it ‘Pastoral’ here … and I don’t like ‘Facilitator.'”
    Another reader, who we’ll hear from in more detail in a couple of months, just was hired to perform what amounts to this new type of job for a private school. We’ll hold off on her name and her school’s name until she settles in and writes about her experiences later this spring. But here’s what she had to say this week:
    “I don’t know that I like the term Social Community Facilitator. Social Community Articulator? But, articulator sounds kind of robotic. Social Community Articulation? That’s better. This concept of articulation on behalf of a community seems quite different from the idea of marketing and PR that could be construed as pushing others in the direction you want them to go — like purchasing something.
    “Social Community Articulation, to my mind, has a strong sense of coming ‘from within’ first. That’s the essence of what I’m doing right now — intuiting and probing what’s really in there that the school wants to say. And here’s the crucial part — saying it — in their voice.”

    Thanks for these early notes!
    Since reporting on this emerging profession just a couple of days ago, I’ve already encountered two people — that’s within 48 hours — who’ve only recently been hired to perform this kind of job. I’m not sure that these Emails are describing precisely the same role the TOC2009 speaker was forecasting — but the whole field is emerging right now, so stay tuned!

RESPONSE 2: “No, That Job Title’s NOT Sexy Enough!”

    OK, so I have to admit: It quickly became clear that the proposed job title may tank with real people.
    Dr. Baker himself weighed in. He’s a sociologist and an expert on American values — and he teaches in the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Like most readers who responded, he was quickly jotting down notes as these ideas rolled around in his mind.
    Hmmm, he wrote: “Unsettled times breed innovation. Old media are dying and new social media are emerging due to two unsettling forces, both obvious: technology and the crushing recession. What will emerge is not obvious.
    “I like Moran’s concept of the ‘Social Community Facilitator’ — though a sexier label is desperately needed. It marries old social roles — maven, host, broker, etc. — with the new social media. And, Moran’s
colleague’s statement that people want to connect and give back also marries the old with the new. We’ve talked about reciprocity and paying it forward on OurValues.org.
    “Ageless truths married to new technology.”

RESPONSE 3: “Hey, You’re Describing What We Already Are Building!”

    Dr. Patricia T. Morris (left), head of the Peace X Peace worldwide women’s network celebrated the news — because it’s what her organization already is doing.
    She wrote: “David, this is exciting stuff! And of course it’s spiritual, empowering and profoundly democratic. I think of the old adage, Vox populi, vox Dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God.
    As people of the 21st century, and especially as women of the 21st century, we are claiming the power of our own voices. We are rejecting the old-style, voice-of-God journalism with august (and generally white male) anchors like Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite delivering ‘facts’ and interpretations readymade. Today, from any spot on the planet, I can be my own news bureau, while I tap into a complex network of grassroots members of civil society from widely diverging perspectives.
    “You’re right that the change is not about any particular medium or channel, no matter how cutting edge. It’s about community and the sharing of messages in community, which women have always depended on for daily bread as well as social (ex)change. Our identity is deeply rooted in our sense and experience of community. As our communication tools are becoming more personal, more interchangeable, and more omnipresent, they are also becoming more woman-friendly and more international. They facilitate heart-to-heart connections on a scale that was inconceivable just a decade or so ago. Indeed, it is our connections that are at the core of our quest for meaning.
    “And that’s what Peace X Peace is all about. We are a non-profit Social Community Facilitator. Women connect by cell phones or through the Internet, as individuals or as equals in a circle, across nations and classes and cultures. Together, connection by connection, we are building a global community at peace. And I believe, as I’m sure you do, that peace is God’s plan for us all.

RESPONSE 4: “Tending … the Souls of Corporations”

    Kathy Macdonald, a business consultant who works on issues ranging from global diversity to corporate culture, Emailed that the kind of language floating around Tools of Change is important — especially in describing the spiritual nature of the challenges that even big companies face today.
    Macdonald wrote: “I have lived most of my life floating in and out of corporations as an external consultant. I recognized early that my real mission was to
tend the ‘soul’ of the organization. The calls to my office always
came when the soul of the organization was in trouble and someone on
the inside figured this out.
    “My husband would even periodically remind
me: ‘If they weren’t messed up, they wouldn’t need you!’
    “What I am now coming to recognize is that much of what I have been doing, Ed
Moran would label as Social Community Facilitation. Not sure that I am
ready to put this on my business card, but I am ready to sign up to
this concept.”
    Another business consultant and leadership coach, Dr. Rob Pasick, the author of an upcoming book, “Balanced Leadership in Unbalanced Times,” said he’s seen evidence already of what Moran described in New York: “One
of the best is Nike, which has created a runner’s community on their
website. In it, the participants who are runners share their ideas about
best places to run, best equipment, tools to use to keep track of
times, etc. This has been a huge advantage for Nike. While it is not
about direct advertising, it drives their business as people who use
the community tend to use Nike products as well.”

RESPONSE 5: Coming Full Circle — Back to People … Just People

    Dr. Benjamin Pratt, the retired pastoral counselor and author of what’s popularly known as “the James Bond Bible Study” plays roles in all three professions now. He’s in sales — marketing his own new book. He’s in media — both traditional and new. And, he said our stories this week reminded him that he’s also a pastor at heart.
    He wrote: “Over the years I have come to trust my pastoral heart. I trusted it 2
days ago when I wrote a brief note to a man I have never met, but a man
who contacted me about how meaningful my book was to him.
    “After that, we shared
Emails every few days and then it stopped on his end. So I wrote:
‘Dear … I have been thinking about you often
which I take as a nudge that I should reach out and check in. I haven’t
heard from you in a while and just found myself a little worried that
all may not be OK. Holding you in my thoughts and reaching out with
concern. Grace and Peace, Benjamin’
    “He replied: ‘Gosh, that’s
neat. It’s good to have a brother reaching to me!’ And then he went on to tell me about a sudden job change and his wife’s illness.
    “After a few more exchanges, we were reconnected. Community formed.”

    And, today, from all the notes we received, I’ll give the last word to Joe Lewis, a Jewish scholar and author who is an occasional contributor to ReadTheSpirit usually on Jewish themes. Joe also works in the corporate world and he had a fascinating reaction to the idea of all those “gurus” and “scholars” and “experts” and “leading voices” gathering in New York to map the horizon line. In fact, in New York, it was conference convener Tim O’Reilly himself who predicted that the biggest transformations may not come from anyone sitting in the Times Square conference hall — but from someone completely unknown in some other corner of the world just now becoming connected via tools that will echo around the planet.
    I had not included that point by Tim O’Reilly in our coverage — but it’s basically what Joe said in his own comment.
    Joe wrote: “I’m a little hesitant to accept advice from a conference. After
all, the presenter has to come up with some slides and advice that
sounds authoritative — that’s what people pay for.
    “Perhaps the urge to attend a professional conference and listen
to a figure of authority is akin to the urge that brings people to a
religious congregation for fellowship and worship. In that case,
conference attendees are likely to accept the premise that humans are
social and spiritual. If we view the world through our own eyes, we
can’t see the hermit’s point of view.
    “I’m also a bit leery of the American desire for trained
professionals to handle every function. I grew up in a country that
celebrated the amateur, and perhaps fondly I like to think that a good
basic education, with good will and common sense, can take human beings
a long, long way toward whatever goal they set.”
    Now, Joe was not in New York for this conference — yet his note was a pretty good summary of the point Tim O’Reilly made in his own talk on the final day. So, now we have come full circle.
    (And, you know those two Web sites I mentioned above? Well, Joe Lewis also has a pretty cool online project himself. It’s called The Singlish Publication Society and it’s Joe’s own creative work to help people who aren’t literate in Hebrew to enjoy Jewish observances along with people who do know the language. No huge corporation “built” Joe’s tools to reconnect Jewish communities. He facilitated it all himself.)

    Care to jump back and read the highlights of this big, newsy week?
    Here are easy links to all 4 parts in the TOC2009 series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

THANKS to all of our readers this week! PLEASE, Keep telling us what you think.

    Not only do we welcome your notes, ideas, suggestions and personal
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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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