Last week I was in Montreal at the World Social Forum, a gathering of over 13 thousand activists from all over the world. They came to connect, collaborate and create another world in the spirit of their tagline: “Another world is necessary. Together it’s possible.”
I respect and admire the will and courage of people who come together to work for change. Often they come from far away and with limited resources. They crossed language, cultural and national boundaries to contribute to a new world.
But despite the commitment and clarity it took to organize and attend, I suspect the event wasn’t transformational for many – or perhaps even most.
It wasn’t as inspiring and direct for me personally as I would have liked – not compared to seeing old and new faces on the teleconference screen as I often do. (That’s to say – you!)
Here’s why I prefer the videoconference . . .to be followed by real-time visits as need be.
(Zoom is the online videoconference technology I use for group calls.) Videoconference calls are inexpensive because there are no travel costs. They have a low carbon footprint compared to, say, flying from Morocco. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of these two factors in a world where many have little money and where carbon is a currency we want to save, not spend.
Benefit #3. Online you quickly determine whether an event nourishes you. You can return if it does, stay away if it doesn’t, perhaps come back another time if you have a schedule conflict. At the Forum you’re subjected to a series of decisions on where to spend your time, with little information to go on. There were over 150 workshops – listed with titles but no descriptions – to choose from each morning and each evening. The “rule of two feet” (leave if you feel to) that’s well established in Open Space circles wasn’t set out here. I know some found it difficult to leave a gathering after it began without feeling rude.
A final observation is an central one for me though it doesn’t overlap directly to virtual vs real space. The Forum was mostly analysis-based. It didn’t have to be but that was how it was. (A notable exception, among what I’m sure where many, were the Systemic Constellations offered by Bruce Nayowith and friends.)
In what could be called the new activism, there’s often an invitation to be personal and transparent. There’s room set out for personal vulnerability and courage in dealing with change. The older activism tends to be founded on the perception of an objective world out there that’s separate from the interior world we inhabit.
As I see it, what’s personally true and important for us has to explicitly be part of the process – or else it’ll be invisible and not accounted for, as it overwhelmingly is in our old collaborative places!
Videoconferencing is easy to do yourself for those who are willing. There’s room for you to host and be part of online explorations in any area you choose. The techniques from groups I do are yours to practice here, to co-develop, and use elsewhere. Another world is possible but it needs activation!