Every month, the NetSquared Community comes together offline at NetSquared Local events around the world to mix, swap stories and ideas, build new relationships, and collaborate to help the local community. Our local organizers are volunteers dedicated to helping create local opportunities for learning, sharing and using technology to make a difference. In this Organizer Spotlight series we bring you interviews with organizers from around the world.
A nature--loving, community-networking aficionado and French-food worshipping yogi
How do you spend your time when you’re not organizing Wiser Tuesday events?
Other than my main job which is working on communications and outreach for WiserEarth.org (a social network for individuals, grassroots communities and organizations working on social and environmental change), I am a volunteer English teacher at a local school and I help out a nonprofit organization here in Paris called InformEthic which is trying to build bridges between those working in the field of technology and nonprofits in France. In my spare time I practice a form of yoga called Anusara which signifies “following your heart.’
What inspired you to organize these events in your community?
It was an idea that came from a WiserEarth (WE) member who suggested that we needed to have a way of bringing local WE members together in order to share projects we are working on, to connect and exchange ideas around using technology for social change. Since we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, we felt that the NetSquared local events would be a good format for us to follow at WiserEarth. As a result, we set up a WiserTuesday gathering here in France. This was made a lot easier as we were lucky enough to be offered a meeting space by La Ruche, a collaborative workspace for social entrepreneurs in Paris. I am now helping to grow face-to-face gatherings among other ‘wiser communities’ around the world as I am truly inspired by the energy that can be created in bringing changemakers together.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
I don’t really find any of it hard as I really enjoy meeting people working in many different areas and on different projects. There is, however, a busier time which is just before and just after a gathering – that includes setting up the event and then afterwards, writing a report of what happened and sharing this with everyone. But then that’s enjoyable too.
How do you measure the success of your events?
We work on the basis that whoever comes to an event are the people who are meant to be there. Sometimes there are 10 of us and other times 40 of us. I feel that each event is special in its own right because of the people who make the effort to turn up in the first place, to share what they are doing and take part in the discussions. Success for me is when someone leaves an event with a new idea, an email address, the possibility of being able to work on someone with a project, or with a warm and fuzzy feeling that they are indeed part of a wider community working on social change.
Tell us about the best Wiser Tuesday event. What did you learn from that experience?
One of our most successful events was around the theme “Are you a good social networker?”. We started off the event with an exercise to show how powerful social networking sites can be in connecting people with similar interests. We invited participants to initially spend 5 minutes getting to know 5 other people and learning 5 interesting facts about them. We then asked them how much people remembered including date of birth, where they were born without pen or paper… After that we asked everyone to do the same exercise but with post-its. Of course we found it a lot easier to remember everything as it had been written down. We then stuck the results on a wall and we were able to read all of them and find out who shared birthdays, similar interests etc. We used Clay Shirky’s ‘Here comes everybody’ model to demonstrate that the post-its had become the social object around which we were coalescing. We learned that it was a powerful networking exercise and a fun way to lead into our presentations and discussions that evening about using social networks for social good.
What’s the local social-web-tech scene like in Paris?
It seems to have really taken off in the 2 years since I moved here. The word ‘social innovation’ is on everyone’s lips right now.
How do you envision Wiser Tuesday events evolving over time?
I think that the Internet and specifically social media tools have really come of age over the past year, especially with the dramatic events that have been taking place in North Africa and the Middle East where social networking platforms such as Twitter and FaceBook are helping to spur democratic change. I think we will see a greater number of grassroots communities and changemakers gathering face-to-face in different parts of the world to better understand how we can effect change using social technologies and how we can work together more effectively to address the critical issues affecting our planet.
What’s your change-the-world philosophy?
"It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community – a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist teacher
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi