A couple of things fell into place starting with the sponsorship from SAP Labs, that provided us with the space, food and drinks and enabled us to have a relaxing hour to get together and network/socialize before the presentations.
You know that you have struck a nerve, when people change their flights to be part of it, when the room is totally packed and people happily sit on the floor or lean against the wall to listen, learn and participate.
When afterwards people come to you and say: "Until now I stayed far away from politics because I thought it is only a game for the big boys with money, but the session tonight really made me hopeful." or you get kicked out of the Pizza place at closing time after midnight and you look around and all the dozen people or so now debating on the sidewalk are from the Future Salon, you know it was a winner.
One of my personal believes is that you are on this world to do you part to make it a better place for all. "Do My Little Part" is the tag line of my personal Weblog and last Thursday I felt we really made a difference for many people.
Really interesting things happen at the edges where two disciplines meet, or when they realize how much they already have in common. When Tom Atlee arrived last Thursday he looked a bit pale and I asked him if he is all right, or whether I can bring him something to eat or drink. He said: "No I am O.K., I just haven't slept a lot lately, I was reading up on the Extreme Democracy site and it got me really excited and I then go on 4 hours of sleep a night, figuring out where these things fit into my world of dialog and deliberation, so this is why I may appear not very alert." Check out the Electronic Democracy Wiki page that he created around his Future Salon session, it is really rich. Here a little excerpt:
The phrase "social technologies" expands to include technologies of dialogue as well as technologies of networking and information. It may include other technologies as well, such as space design and citizen control of media. We often forget that "technology" is not made of just wires, silicon and electrons - it is primarily made of applied knowledge, of useful, workable design and technique. When we gain and apply the knowledge that allows us to create wise public policy from the collective minds and hearts of ordinary people, we are talking technology - SOCIAL technology.
And with that concept we can bridge and marry the previously isolated strands of know-how that we need to weave the new fabric of democracy we dream of.
He is calling everyone to join in to make this dream a reality. In his talk he said, that he is willing and in the middle of going through all the 23 or so elements of citizen councils/dialog and deliberation to find out what is the essence, where is face to face gatherings needed and where are the social software tools of advantage, where do they compliment each other. On the Wiki again:
So what I want to do with you here is to start this weaving. I've told you one type of technology from my world, the world of dialogue and deliberation -- these citizen deliberative councils. How do they and their role change when we begin weaving them together with the existing dream of extreme democracy? And how does that the extreme democracy dream morph?
Similar the CivicSpace that Zack Rosen introduced is used very successful already, and I will take a closer look to may be get rid of the dreaded yahoo group and it may even bring up the participation level of the Future Salon members.
Ross Mayfield not only was creating a special Tao of Extreme Democracy page on our Socialtext Future Salon Workspace [why didn't we do that all the time for the links that people throw in during a Salon?], in a side sentence he also pointed to the new Omidyar Network group forming space. It looks very promising especially the addition of reputation to the system should make a real positive impact on the quality of the whole site. In addition Ross posted a thoughtful summary on Corante's Many-2-Many blog also calling for the support of Tom's effort, which will hopefully introduce more people of the Extreme Democracy camp to the thoughts behind Citizen Deliberative Councils.
With that post we just witnessed a 360 degree cross pollination between Extreme Democracy and Co-Intelligence Democracy. Let us all work on keeping that dialog alive.
Realizing all that is what makes me really happy, last Thursday we really made a difference.
Am I the one who makes it all happen? No, I am just the main person carrying the effort. Do I have special skills that are needed to do this? The opposite is true, I am a foreigner, English is not the language of my mother, I am a terrible speller as everyone knows who reads this blog regularly and I am bad with names [ever wondered why I insist on name tags? :-)]. These are obstacles, sometimes really annoying, but I am happy that they are not holding my back [anymore]. Yes I put some effort into this adventure and one of the consequences is that I am not up to date regarding the latest blockbuster movie, but then a Future Salon like the one last Thursday is so gratifying and makes it totally worth it.
I am writing this, to encourage people to realize their own potential to make a difference. No specific skills needed, just a passion for your cause and a little bit of effort. Try it out.