Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Higher Thoughts at Higher Places

Today is Day Two of the three-day FIC spring organizational mtg. Following our successful Art of Cmty Southwest weekend in Albuquerque, yesterday morning we snaked our way up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Hummingbird Cmty, located 2-1/2 hours to the northeast, and another 2-1/2 thousand feet up. Hummingbird is our gracious host for these three days of superior altitude and, hopefully, superior attitude. At least we have a lovely setting for it.

Our plenaries are in a yurt located well within the sound of the snow melt rushing raucously down the intermittent stream just 100 feet away. We're in the long daylight hours of summer. The air is redolent with pine resin and the night sky is brilliant with a thickness of stars that can only be glimpsed with the combined advantages of thin air and remote settings. It is, in short, a terrific place to set aside the other parts of one's life and focus on the people and the business at hand.

We are here to have a board mtg… which we intend to be anything but a bored mtg. In addition to the usual suspects, we have an above-average smattering of new faces, some of which were inspired by last weekend's event to tag along at the last minute and see what happens. Yesterday we reviewed the weekend's event and paused to reflect on where we're headed with our Events Program. Paid attendance was disappointing (less than 75), and that meant there was no profit from registrations for the organizing team to share. While the team's esprit de corps was excellent, and the event itself was rewarding, we had hoped for better.

On the plus side of the ledger, the energy was terrific, and we made above-average money on both the benefit auction (where we netted about $2300) and the bookstore (where the gross topped $2000), which means an overall black number at the bottom for FIC. We love doing events (where we get the chance to deliver the tools of cmty, the inspiration of cmty, and a feeling of cmty), yet what makes the most sense (as well as the most cents) as we plan future gigs?

Based on yesterday's analysis, we're leaning toward being more careful about where we hold weekend events (Friday evening through Sunday afternoon). We need these bigger deals to be more consistently profitable, and that means they need to have three key factors lined up: a) location in a place where we know cmty interest to be strong; b) a venue that wants us (as opposed to one that is simply happy to have our business); and c) local people who have the skill, motivation, and availability to be on the organizing team—it's uphill trying to accomplish all this from a distance.

Going in the other direction, we want to do be more experimental with one-day events, where we won't need to deal with overnight accommodations, meal arrangements will be greatly simplified, and we can (mostly) put on a great show with in-house personnel—minimizing the need to locate and schedule outside speakers or presenters. For this concept to work we need to be lean and mean when it comes to budget. We need: a) a free, or very low cost venue; b) we need to already be in the area (perhaps because we're having an organizational mtg nearby), to contain travel costs; and c) we need at least a couple local people to be excited about publicizing the event and jumping into logistics.

(As an example, Ma'ikwe and I did a Saturday Community Day event in Houston last March, en route to a family wedding. While only 20 people showed up, we still made money and had a good time. Organizing was minimal and we only drove about 100 miles out of our way. We were "an event in a box.")

• • •
OK, that was yesterday's highlight (aside from the personal reconnecting that invariably accompanies the gathering the FIC tribe). Here are four of the exciting things on tap for today:

1. Right Relationship to Advertising
When is advertising a service; and when does it cross the line into hype and intrusion? To what extent does our accepting ads from businesses and organizations imply value alignment, and what are our limits around this (taking into account that we explicitly value diversity, and at the same time care a great deal about promoting a cooperative world)? To what extent do we fail to fully develop the revenue potential of advertising simply because we have not yet made peace with making money while promoting cooperation? (And even if we agree that this is happening, what do we do about it?)

We will be wrestling with these demons both for our Directory website and Communities magazine.

2. Honoring Networking
We'll be consider establishing a Geoph Kozeny Networking Award, to honor those who best exhibit the spirit of connection and curiosity of our fallen comrade. While FIC hasn't done this before, can there ever be a better time to begin celebrating the accomplishments of those pioneers out there building sustainable culture? We know what's needed, and (like Supreme Court Justice Whizzer White once said about pornography) "we know it when we see it," so why not take the lead in blowing the horn and banging the drum? (Geoph, after all, loved a good show.)

3. Creating Cmty Where You Are
Tonight, long-time Board member Harvey Baker will conduct a workshop on this—which he's been doing for years. FIC made the decision three years ago to broadened its mission to include Creatign Cmty Where You Are, yet we're still feeling our way about what our product is (as distinct from what other org's offer) and how best to deliver it. Instead of starting (again) in our heads, this time we'll begin our examination experientially, in our bodies. When we take it up in plenary Wednesday morning, we'll be speaking from a different kind of knowing… which we're hoping will offer different insights.

Stay tuned.

4. Collaboration with EDE Southwest
After the successful completion (in May in Albuquerque) of the full Ecovillage Design Education curriculum—the first in the United States—the organizing group: EDE Southwest (comprised of Ma'ikwe Ludwig, Rich Ruster, Zaida Amaral, and Robert Griffin) is interested in talking with FIC about ways we might synergistically help each other be more potent in our offerings.

I just love this kind of cooperating among cooperators, and can hardly wait to close the lid on my laptop, get my first cup of coffee, and let the day begin. There are so many things to do; so many wonders to explore…

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