BrainJams Connects the Open Web of People

This is from a Press Release that I wanted to send out, but did not after conferring with others. It is just too long for a piece of PR. Writing for the blog has let my brevity skills wither…

The emergence of the knowledge economy is changing how we gather and share information, transforming business, community and social networks. BrainJams, a new not-for-profit social venture, takes this idea to the next level by applying the ideals of the open source community and new ideas around knowledge networking to connect ordinary people with extraordinary potential. The idea is to get people outside of their traditional ‘box’ to see the world from different perspectives.

With the primary mission of “connecting the dots” across traditional organizational boundaries, BrainJams facilitates knowledge networking events where people can share their ideas and experiences within a loose structure often referred to as an “Unconference”. While contributing relevant insights to many different people, participants receive much more than they give, just as they do with online communities. The intention of the event is straightforward – share your knowledge with others and everyone gets ahead. These ideals have been proven in the open source community across multiple cultures with diverse people working towards common goals. In essence, BrainJams is striving to apply the knowledge learned from experiences within such virtual communities to real world, real time, real space communities.

The format of BrainJams events can be ‘borrowed’ by anyone and improved upon under the Creative Commons Share and Share Alike license. BrainJams is in the process of building a community of unconference practitioners to share best practices and learn how to best organize similarly intentioned events. Aspiring BrainJams organizers from around the world can use the BrainJams wiki to promote and organize their events. It is expected that there will be no single format that defines BrainJams events other than each event having a simple organizing principle, setting the intention of sharing knowledge and utilizing some basic forms of structure for facilitating the given event.

According to Chris Heuer, founder and Executive Director of BrainJams, “There is no box. The only constraints we have on our thinking are the ones we imagine. Why not get people together from different backgrounds, set a good intention and see what happens? Everyone has their own noble pursuit, and mine is getting sharp people together and watching the magic unfold when they are engaged in ad-hoc collaboration, talking about their individual passions and ideas. The world will only continue to be the way it is as long as people believe it will – getting people to talk about their ideas and how they might affect change is the all important first step on a very long journey.”

Building on the recent success of the BrainJams event held on December 3rd, 2005 at SRI’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, the community continues to grow with numerous volunteers and contributors joining our efforts each day. BrainJams is now officially establishing itself as a non-profit entity with 501c3 status to further promote the sharing of knowledge across traditional boundaries, and educating people in the practical uses of Web 2.0 technologies (in other words, teaching people how to connect with other people using Open Web technologies). Today, Heuer is pleased as punch to announce that David Gutelius of SRI, Jennifer Myronuk of Storyfield and Kristie Wells of Gupta Technologies are joining him on the Board of Directors. Wells is Heuer’s fiancé and his right arm in developing the organization, while the advice and support of Gutelius and Myronuk has been invaluable in solidifying the plans for BrainJams’ future.

Heuer has also formally announced his intention to raise $1.5 million dollars in 2006 for the purpose of touring the United States, hosting BrainJams in communities large and small. Before the national tour however, BrainJams will be held in select cities as we work out the logistical and ideological nuances of the event format. Dates have been proposed for BrainJams events in Washington, D.C. on Monday January 30, 2006 and Berkeley, California on February 13, 2006. Volunteers and patrons are actively being sought for each event as are event locations. (Heuer prefers to call those who donate money to sponsor the event ‘Patrons’ in the same way that Renaissance artists had patrons who supported their creative work.)

BrainJams is striving to make all of its events free of charge, preferring to seek donations from those who support our vision. Through the generosity of several participants and event Patrons, the BrainJams event in Menlo Park made $290.15, which will go towards incorporation fees. The first BrainJams event was held in San Francisco in October 2005 under the name of “Web 2.1: A BrainJam for the rest of us”. That event garnered enough support to cover all expenses and to donate $1,300 to the Internet Archive and $130 to the Creative Commons.

BrainJams will be operated as a transparent organization with open accounting principles and the open deliberation of issues via Open Web technologies. Notably in this regard is the use of Heuer’s insights on TagSpaces to facilitate conversations of importance to the organization across the blogosphere, through social bookmarking sites and other community tools. The knowledge from the event is captured and shared for others to build upon.

Heuer further states, “The time is right for good people everywhere to rise up and tear down the traditional silos within corporations, across organizations and within their various industries. BrainJams enables people to make new connections across traditional boundaries with the people, ideas and resources that they often could not access elsewhere. These diverse connections are very powerful with the potential to inspire new insights, create new organizations and empower people to make a difference in their communities.”

The BrainJams community Web site is still under development expected to launch late February 2006 though some information is available there today along with a Wiki and a Blog.

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