Saturday, April 24, 2010

why #oxfordjam will sing in #socent #4change event memory

I've been thinking a lot lately about the role Evolutionize It can play in organizing events for social entrepreneurs, so when the invitation to participate in #oxfordjam came through my friend @amyrsward, I jumped at it. Before I knew it, I had 2 sessions to throw together - one of them a collaboration dinner that ended up being full of surprising lessons. This post isn't about what happened at my sessions, but about what happened as a result of @BenMetz's initiative to co-create an event with others. As you may have already guessed, I'm singing praises.

What I really loved most about the Oxford Jam event was that it brought together a wonderfully interesting mish-mash of event styles. Cliff Prior of Unltd. UK did a fabulous job of facilitating the sector skill swap, with physical movement in the room and brightly colored post-it's pasted on our clothes. Ethical Property created a game that gave us each monopoly money to invest in 5 very different kinds of social sector investments. The inspiring afternoon Ted style talks gave people doing amazing things the spotlight to tell others about what they were doing and invite discussions to learn more. Perhaps my favorite session was the Patient Opinion session on gift economies, where - for some reason I've yet to fully come to grips with - the hair on my neck stood up when we got to the bit about monetizing the part where the highest social value lies.

The patchwork of session styles, all designed by really smart people to push and pull at my brain, did just that. The "Let it all hang out" evening cabaret with Liam Black was surely a highlight, but it unfortunately came with a high price. My one regret is that my body is not accustomed to functioning on so little sleep. Being late to breakfasts with the social enterprise investment infrastructure people from the Skoll World Forum was really a bummer, in the end. Those are the discussions in which I had the most aha moments.

The cross-pollination between the Skoll World Forum and the Oxford Jam helped me to see that the kinds of investment vehicles the "investor" crowd are talking about creating are actually realistic for a very small, tiny subgroup of the social entrepreneurs I know. Not only do I wish this group would widen their view to study what kinds of investment vehicles social enterprises around the world actually need, but social entrepreneurs need to be groomed to be able to absorb the kinds of structured investment amounts and formats that the investors are talking about. "We need a Kiva for social enterprise" rolled off my tongue in a number of conversations at the Oxford Jam event. Those are the conversations I look most forward to continuing with folksat the Shine Unconference in London next month.

Amanda at @RedButtonDesign was kind enough to share a ton of insight into what worked and didn't work with the event's online strategy. I also learned a whole lot about better world video production (and synthesized many collaboration dinner lessons) with a sweetheart of a woman named Denise Kirtley who was there making a video of the event for the OxfordJam crew. I hope to write more about those lessons, and how I'm seeing them play out in my own imagineering in future posts here.

Since coming back, I have been in deep underground imagineering mode for an event concept that I've been nurturing in dialogue with others. OxfordJam's brilliant patchwork approach, the local burlesque flavor, old industrial architecture repurposed for the cross-pollination of ideas, opportunities for entrepreneurship and interpreneurship at Evolutionize It... all of these have me thinking about what makes an event sing in the memories of the people who attend. The first Oxford Jam will always sing through the video lens of my personal memory, with a great beat and an intellectually jazzy Oxford tempo that made me want to catch more of it.

Responding to some post event twitter buzz I'm seeing, please, YES! Let's make OxfordJam a thrivable yearly gathering place for showcasing the Social Enterprise building song. If @BenMetz and co-conspirators can pull it off again in 2011, I hereby pledge to SING at next year's OxfordJam cabaret (which, by the way, featured far too few of our sector's women with hidden talents this year!)

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