Half the conferences I attend these days pass in a blur of tweets. I’ve engaged in lengthy conversations with people sitting a few chairs away without ever connecting face to face. And I’ve captured reams of notes without really assimilating the content.
Web of Change is different. It celebrates the technological innovations that help us go further and faster without losing sight of the foundation of one-to-one relationships that every movement is built on. The ability to scale up is wonderful, but there’s always a trade-off between depth and breadth.
The institution itself is exploring this tension as it considers ways to grow its impact in the world. There is a clear need for more leadership development and cross-movement collaboration, but no one wants to dilute the secret sauce.
As a first time attendee in 2011, I was blown away by the rare combination of big ideas and small egos. The folks in this community understand there is more work to be done than any of us can do alone, and that a rising tide lifts all ships.
Last year, I spent the first two days feverishly scribbling notes about theory of change and Net Promoter Score. I was constantly thinking ahead to applications for my own work at Resource Media. At some point, I must have dropped my pen. Perhaps during Juan Rodriguez’s moving story about the Trail of Dreams.
I suddenly snapped into the present, and realized that the environmental campaigns I’ve spent the past decade working on are just one small part of the change we need to create in the world. And that no one will win if we don’t work together.
This year, I focused less on tools and tactics and more on big questions about relationships—both personal and institutional. You can spread yourself impossibly thin to cover as much ground as possible. Or you can go deep.
Communities aren’t made up of superficial relationships, either to people or causes. They rely on deep connections between individuals or small groups that are interwoven to knit us all together.
In order to develop those connections, you have to stand for something. But you can wear your values loud and proud while holding space for others. And sometimes you have to unplug to tune in. I guess that’s what I learned at Web of Change 2012.
Photo courtesy Caroline Bennett