TSG Contributors Summit One Year Later—It Takes Confidence to Collaborate
This is the fourth of a four-part series in which you will find excerpts from twenty participant impact evaluations provided one year after the February 15, 2011 TechSoup Global Contributors Summit. (See the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog post for a Summit overview.)
Finally, there was a sub-theme about confidence, commitment and risk-taking that ran through many of the statements. The Summit wasn’t exactly a hotbed of shrinking violets, but sometimes, amidst the ‘movers and shakers’ of the social change world, it is easy to forget how daunting our work is and how even the most successful social entrepreneur or nonprofit leader has heard “No” and “It won’t work,” way more often than the contrary.
“I think I took something from your event that I didn’t expect to, and it took a while to distil itself. Resolve. Resolve not to put up with procrastination, and to go and take something that you want to do, and just do it… I met so many people who had been inspired to grab something and run with it, that it inspired me to do the same. … I'd say the whole approach to developing skillage was shaped by my attendance in SF and newfound resolve not to be subsumed in process, and the just 'do it' approach…I think under normal circumstances what would have happened was that we would have sat down and written a funding application, formed a partnership, submitted the application, waited 5/6 months for the assessment, and then set out on the 2 years development process to specify, test, pilot, and review the system, before asking telecentres to use it. But none of us had the appetite to await a 2014-5 start, and so we bypassed this entire process and just did it. We believed that we were onto 'something' and we didn’t actually need to go through the hugely drawn out process of EC funding… We then had twenty telecentre networks volunteer to translate it; Since they could see that we had volunteered our time to build it, it was a small ask of them. We did get Microsoft along the way to pay for the technical development (we might have just done it with our reserves , but we are very grateful they did so)…So this is the outcome, we have a product up and running in four months, and 11k uses already."
For many of us, Beth Kanter is a beacon, someone who inspires and gives us confidence. But inspirers need to be inspired too! Beth posted about the Summit immediately after and added this in her impact evaluation.
“I attended the Summit a few weeks before I was leaving to do the first project in the Middle East under E-Mediat - the State Department project - to train the trainers in social media capacity building using a networked approach. And while I had done a lot of international work, I had not worked in the Middle East. Having the chance to interview Annie – Story of Stuff – her story became a case study in the curriculum! Also, since TechSoup Global brought together so many NGO leaders from around the world, I was able to efficiently and effectively get a rewarding professional development experience, inspired conversations about networks and the networked NGO - that propelled me or gave the courage to take several challenging capacity building projects in developing countries over 2012 … [And] during the "unconference" part of the summit - I got to start a small group conversation about Failure - while it wasn't a popular topic, the small group I talked with was deep and insightful. It gave me a whole new area of inquiry and focus ... TechSoup provided me the multi-disciplinary experience so I could set my professional learning and network agenda for the next decade - or well at least the next few years because we live in fast-changing times.”
A last reflection: In an age of pervasive digital communication—coupled with the time, money and carbon suck that is plane travel—it is reasonable to question the validity of large face to face gatherings. My own rationale is that what is rare is valuable and the chance to interact face to face, in a context that maximizes the quality of the interaction, is increasingly rare, and increasingly valuable. Not in the way that an Old Master is valuable because no one else owns it and it has a specific historical context, but because stuff happens in the right face to face environment that doesn’t happen anywhere else.
Here’s a Summit example, from Joaquin Alvarado, Chief Strategy Officer at the Center for Investigative Reporting, that neatly makes the point.
“I had a chance to sit next to a long time local Bay Area colleague. She runs a foundation focused on community technology adoption and innovation. We were both rushing to get a sandwich in and spoke fast. My observation, which she was polite enough to humor, was that we were quickly rushing to a point where social and mobile networks would normalize the kind of positive results the Summit was creating from all of us being in person. She agreed but with one caveat. The caveat was that we would still need to gather in person, not to answer the old questions, but to understand and investigate new ones which were sure to emerge as we move to an age of pervasive connectivity and data. For this - I say more Summits fast!”
Also see the previous 3 installments in this four-part series on the TSG blog:
(1) The Odds Favored Collaboration
(2) The Dynamics of Successful Collaboration
(3) The TSGN Network Comes of Age
And for a Summit overview, see the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog.
Photo by Clara Azulay