BrainJams: Boundary Spanners in the Commons…

Well, it has been a long and somewhat silent week for me – or at least for my blog because my voice is hoarse from talking to everyone so much. Last week’s BrainJams in Berkeley gave me a lot to think about, but it was the right stuff to think about because the vision for BrainJams is getting clearer and so is the story around it. From the feedback I have been getting, it feels as if BrainJams is the early manifestation of a community of people who break through traditional boundaries and participate in open collaboration in the public commons.

This is good. The audience for the message is identified. The purpose is becoming clear. The message is getting simpler (though watch out for the buzzwords that follow). The format for the events is evolving in a great way. The discussions of the past few months are leading to action.

While I am driving the organization, I still feel like I am in the backseat and the participants behind the wheel, so let me put this idea to you as YAPMS (Yet Another Proposed Mission Statement):

BrainJams is a community of people who span traditional boundaries within and across organizations for the purpose of populating, organizing and enhancing the “Public Knowledge Commons” while teaching other’s to make the best use of the appropriate tools for their situation to connect, communicate and collaborate within their communities.

From initial discussions this week, it would seem that this resonates, is somewhat unique, matches my original intentions and just feels right, though admittedly it could use some ‘wordsmithing’.

While this includes the idea of unconferences as a primary venue for peer to peer learning, it encompasses more then this singular idea for real time human gatherings. In a very real sense, the name brought forth a format and the format developed the purpose as it was within those open space conversations where this idea really grew. Yes it is still about Web 2.1 and the people within it (or as I am fond of calling it now, the Human Centered Web) but it is also about much more.

It is about freedom of expression. It is about standing up and being heard. It is about making things right – because WE can, even when the system can not. It is about the simple fact that the knowledge I need to know, to do what I have to do, is out there somewhere. It is about the fact that technology alone can not get me that information reliably – but smart people like you can with the aid of technology, particularly with the technology of the Human Centered Web. It is about learning from one another. It is about the computer being good with information and people being the source of the wisdom of how to use that information. It is about tolerance for differences and embracing commonalities between us. It is about diversity of perspective and culture. It is about doing what is best for our communities because it is also best for ourselves. it is about seeking out the truth rather than pushing an agenda. It is about taking action as much as it is about discussing which actions need to be taken.

So where do we start? or rather, where do we go from here?

I could really use some help is with the following items:

  1. Hire a grant writer to help us get a grant from a foundation
  2. Build out the community web site completely to align with the vision above
  3. With that grant, to hire a small full time staff to handle the operational aspects of the BrainJams organization (Executive Director, Administrative Assistant, Event Logistics Coordinator and Community Content Editor)
  4. Begin a research project into mapping the history of groups, formats and tools to determine what works in which situations
  5. Begin to map out which groups exist today, what their purposes are and who the members are. This will allow more people to easily find people who are passionate about the same noble pursuit that they share so they can more easily tap into that community for conversation and the knowledge they need to take action themselves directly. This also addresses the fact that many groups exist for the same purpose, but have not aligned in action or understanding yet – in effect to become a “Meta-Group” that helps them span their organizational boundaries.
  6. Planning BrainJams New Orleans for May 4, 2006
  7. Refine all this thinking into a clear plan for the organization

Wish there was more time to dive deeper into all of this, as there are still about 5 or 6 blog posts I need to get out to explain the thinking behind this, but work calls, so I must close for now. Please do let me know what you think about these ideas, whether or not this is too expansive or too restrictive, and how we might improve upon this concept even further…

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  1. #1 by Kristie Wells - March 6th, 2006 at 17:09

    I like the idea of the mission statement – it just seems there are a lot of ‘ing’ words there. I have played with minimiz(ing) it and haven’t been able too without losing the message, so this might be as tight as it can be. I do want to make sure the everyday person gets it – so I will send on to non-techie friends to get their feedback.

    I do think we are on the right track and look forward to the road ahead, especially the planning for New Orleans.

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