Opening Day

OK, Love Not Fear community, lots of good stuff happened today! It was, I would say, game 1 of a long season, to keep with the metaphor.  We had a great group of engaged and passionate people and we had a good discussion, good fun, good food (thanks to the Rowdies’ Den for letting us take their private room!) and some productive next steps.  For those who are naturally impatient, I’ll tee up the next steps, and then back up and give context. (I promise there is useful stuff in the context.) If you couldn’t make it today, please look through the next steps, and if you’re passionate about helping with any of them, now is the time to speak up. If you’re passionate about something else that fits with Love Not Fear (and if you’re still fuzzy on that, the featured blog post covers the basics), by all means put that on the agenda for us. Lovenotfearmovement@gmail.com. Or comment here.

If you took the survey, you’ll recall that the things that arise as focus areas are

  1. Building the community/Being a beacon to others
  2. Helping natural organizers (“instigators”) build community more easily
  3. Improving our individual habits
  4. Advocating to change the culture

 

And what we came away with as first steps align with those items, more or less.*

1) Social Media Challenges: Social media isn’t for everyone, but it is a great way to be a beacon and shape our own habits for many, and Vanessa and Kelly agreed to work with our Facebook queen, Christy, to develop weekly social media-based challenges of love and community-based actions we can take on and challenge others via social media channels to do.  This will give us practical steps to be a beacon to others while improving our habits.

2) Offline Challenges: Some of these may be spread online as well, but in addition to those challenges that live only in the world of electrons, we want to develop challenges that happen in real life. If you didn’t see Lydia’s post on the Facebook page, it’s a great example of a real-life kindness that we can send forward by equipping people with Love Not Fear “Now It’s Your Turn” cards – you do something kind for someone, then hand them a card telling them that now it’s their turn to do it for someone else.  This was a great idea from Valerie that we plan to move forward once we get some operational things lined up (see below), but if there are ways to start with the social media tools we have, we will.

3) Love Not Fear Gatherings: Building Love Not Fear’s community in person matters; today was validation of that.  I’ll be working with Heidi to schedule the next Tampa Bay one and we’ll seek input on times and activities. At the same time, Love Not Fear isn’t geography-restricted; if you’re somewhere else, and you want to host a Love Not Fear Gathering, we can make it happen.

4) Instigator project(s): Lydia and Jen shared about a project in the Old Northeast neighborhood in St. Pete that could provide a focused example of how to support the people who are natural organizers in building simple community. (see context below) At the same time, Frank raised the value of trying to identify and connect instigators across communities and both focus them on Love Not Fear and find out how to make it easier for them to work their management. Lydia, Frank and I will work on that while the Old Northeast project continues apace.

5) Operations: We didn’t call it this (I told you we had fun, right?), but there are some things to line up that we don’t have and need.  One is a logo that really works for sharing, and Jen offered to recruit her graphic designer (and I said I would tap those that Karen suggested to me). And we acknowledged that at our next soiree we need to get serious about deciding who we want to be as an organization (non-profit? membership org? for-profit?) and how we will pay for stuff like “Now it’s your turn” card once we have a logo for them. Heidi and I will work on drafting some of the basic operational stuff to share, assuming that very few people enjoy word-smithing mission statements from scratch.

*Incidentally, I’m using first names.  Some people have different levels of comfort with privacy, so I’ll leave off the last names.  If this makes you feel like you’re reading about someone else’s group, because you don’t know who these people are, well, take some comfort that most of these people didn’t know who each other was, either, until they came today, so it’s not like you’re on the outside of some established in-group. I just figured it was worth communicating to you, fair reader, that we are all real people and to them that I had them down on my list as taking responsibility for stuff.

Context #1: Old Northeast Project – Rich and Lydia masterminded this with help from Jen, me (Jeff) and the Rays’ Brian Auld (he’s not in this group, and his name is in the paper a lot, so I figure I can use his last name). Rich and Lydia are researchers on community (Rich’s book, Simple Community, is a great read. I have extra copies from the meeting, and will mail you one if you ask for it, if only to see if anyone read this far.) Jen’s paper, the Northeast Journal, serves St. Pete’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood, which has about 10,000 residents, and Rich’s research indicates that about 1.3% of people are natural instigators, or community organizers – the people who organize the cookout/picnic/rally. So Rich, Lydia and Jen (with some support from Brian and me) are trying to identify the 130 instigators in Old Northeast and get them connected and active in building neighborliness in the neighborhood, using in part a tool called Nextdoor.com, which I in artfully describe as a neighborhood-level Facebook. Jen has a few copies of the special section on neighborliness, but it’s probably best to view it online.

Context #2: Positive media – Jen’s papers, including the Northeast Journal, focus on telling good news stories.  I also mentioned Images of Voices and Hope, which Mallary (who couldn’t attend) leads, and which seeks to encourage members of the main stream media to write “restorative narratives,” stories that don’t just harp on the bad but capture the resilience in communities.  Incidentally, on a smaller scale, 83 Degrees media and its sister publications do this in several communities.  Jen shared a number of great examples of positive media, including “Intelligent Optimist” and “Yes” magazines and “Upworthy”. Though this is not a loop we closed in the discussion, I think we see Love Not Fear as a repository of the many outlets that do focus on positive media as a way of helping people shape their habits by filtering what they watch.

Context #3: Advocacy – Jen raised this – to what degree can a Love Not Fear community pressure mainstream media to back down on negativity and fear? I think where we left this is that we first need to build the Love Not Fear community and through it make the case that there is an economic incentive for positive media. We may at some point engage media ethicists like those at Poynter to raise the issue on moral grounds.

Context #4 Gatherings – One of the things Heidi raised was the value of in-person opportunities to build relationships within the Love Not Fear community, and in that discussion we touched on the fact that a wonderful challenge in St. Pete (and other communities) is the sheer number of great things to do, which makes it hard to know where your friends are and where you could be.  Being able to connect with Love Not Fear community members for meet ups at cool local happenings was something people saw value in, and setting aside the phenomenal communication challenge of developing a comprehensive social calendar for a modern city, I recommended the “Love Where You Live Tampa Bay” group that AARP started on Facebook. Apologies to the non-Bay area folks, or perhaps a challenge to go and do likewise.

#5 Arts – Several people raised the role of the arts in Love Not Fear in the survey and the group was super pumped about the possibility. I hope to work with Karen on fleshing this out.

So this was Opening Day. Thanks again for all who came, and for all who sent regrets, I hope you see that the season has just begun. Let’s play ball!

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