As one of the instigators of ChangeCamp at MaRS in Toronto on January 24th, I have spent much of the past 10 days trying to process all the content, ideas, outcomes and possibilities that it generated. It’s been a little overwhelming. Clearly we tapped a rich vein of attention.
Wordle (Merkley, transcribed) by Suzanne Long
So what did we do together? Let’s do a quick rundown of the numbers:
140 participants (one person for every character in a Tweet!)
and one great big meme propagating through the underbrush
That’s a lot of heat from our ChangeCamp fire! But how much light was there? How much change was made? What was the quality of the products of our co-creation?
To my mind, the jury is still out on this question. A lot will happen not at ChangeCamp, but in the weeks and months to come because of ChangeCamp. We need to hear, share and tell those stories. We need your help:
Have more feedback? Write a post about what worked, what didn’t and ideas for the future, like this, this, this, this or this.
The organizers came to this event with modest goals: to ignite and accelerate a new conversation about the shifting ideas of government and citizenship in this “age of participation”, enabled by new tools and thanks to the web. Based on the buzz in online social media, traditional media and face-to-face conversations, I think we can safely say that we achieved that modest goal.
For people in other cities and countries that have been inspired by the ChangeCamp idea, it is important to understand all the preparatory ground work that made ChangeCamp a success in Toronto. An event of this kind is all about having the right mix of participants. Engaging that mix from government, technology, design, social innovation and media-making was key to our success.
Toronto is blessed by a dense cluster of some of the most talented designers, developers, creators and social innovators in the world. Toronto is also home to one of the most connected and innovative BarCamp and Twitter communities in the world, who have been using online tools together with face-to-face events to create change in areas of civic life outside the technology sector. We have leaders like Mark Surman of Mozilla Foundation who laid the groundwork within our City government, opening the door to open data. We had a recent “Web 2.0 Summit” event at City Hall where social media and open data in the context of government had centre stage in front of an influential audience both at the City and the Province. We have a Mayor who said:
When you open up the data, there’s no limit to what people can do. It engages the imagination of citizens in building the city.
What direction does ChangeCamp go next? That’s another post. We want to make sure that our emerging community has lots of opportunity to inform its future direction, to participate in it, to get involved in many new ways. We can’t do it all, we can’t do it alone, we can’t boil the ocean, but we can start with some small steps that in the long-run can enable major change.
Please read after the jump and give all the originators, organizers, contributors, sponsors and supporters some love. They deserve it. I’m sure I’ve missed a couple of people, so raise your hand at firstname.lastname@example.org if I missed you!
Twitter is the human swarm: an always-on, open, global and decentralized conversation. Twitter has undergone a phase change as a communications tool, and we see its effects globally, from news of the attacks in Mumbai to Toronto’s tech scene. Something new is emerging, something very powerful: Twitter is becoming a platform for collective action.
Whale in the sky, by Gail Johnson
In Toronto, #HoHoTO was a holiday party held December 16, 2008 to raise funds for the Daily Bread Foodbank that has had a big local impact and received coverage all over the online and traditional media. I think the Toronto tech community will look at this event the way some of us look back at the first BarCamp in Toronto in November 2005, a milestone in the emergence of a new community made possible by technology.
Since then, a myriad projects have hatched on or been assisted by Twitter. #thmvmnt is reimagining how free-agent creative and design professionals work, collaborate and make the world better. #ChangeCamp is changing the way we think about government, democracy and citizenship. #tsTO is a conversation about “TwitterSpace” – garages and war rooms provided by Twitter patrons that act as distributed temporary incubators for projects born in the swarm. #svc is looking to launch a Social Venture Commons leveraging the power of the hyper-connected twittersphere.
What is going on here?
Jay Goldman recently described it as ant colony communication – we’re leaving little pheromone signals in our digital wake. They act as attractors to trigger self-organizing behaviours among others in the colony.
Clay Shirky has talked about how online social networks and communities are entering a new phase of development, one of collective action. We’re watching this new form emerge from its cocoon, and it’s fascinating.
Humanity appears to be undergoing a techno-social evolution right in front of our eyes. Is Hive’s superorganism being born, and are we part of it? Is the Web truly Us?
I believe it is, and I believe that this is not only good, but it is critical to our survival. All around us are huge, intractable problems of collective action: crisis and the risk of collapse are in our ecological, economic, political and cultural environments. What better evolutionary development than a collective intelligence enabled to in a decentralized way coordinate collective action to these very problems?
To realize the potential of this collective intelligence, we have problems to solve:
How do we involve, include and reflect the values of the non-connected periphery in our hyper-connected core?
How do the myriad fleeting ideas that emerge find stable structures to see them through to execution?
How will existing structures have to adapt in order to allow this new potential to be realized and harnessed?
Whose interests are served by the new emergent order and whose interests are harmed? How will those conflicting interests be negotiated?
If you’re interested in these questions and have some ideas on how to solve these meta problems, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or better yet join the conversation on Twitter: #swarmintelligence, I’m @remarkk.
Join the conversation on Twitter. tag: #ChangeGovCA
Recent political developments in Canada have taken us all by surprise and left many of us confused and disillusioned, but also super-engaged. This a tremendous opportunity and a moment for real dialogue among Canadians about our politics, our democracy and our individual citizenship.
Many of us are watching with rapt attention what’s going on in the transition to an Obama administration in the United States. I’ve been amazed at how the technologies of participation are being married to the philosophy of transparency in very real and exciting ways. An administration-in-waiting that blogs with open commenting! And offers a Seat at the Table for open policy conversations and submission of documents!
Inspired by these developments and the work of Laurence Lessig and Joe Trippi with Change-Congress.org and Open-Government.us, I registered the domain ChangeGov.ca, with an eye to it being a place for a new conversation for a multi- and non-partisan movement of Canadians interested in changing our institutions of government to reflect our times. I don’t know what this might become, but I’m inviting people interested in democratic renewal and the principles of politics embedded in the philosophy of the open web to join and open the conversation.
Leave a comment on this post, or join the conversation on Twitter by using the tag: #ChangeGovCA. You can follow the conversation at search.twitter.com or using the awesome search pane on the powerful TweetDeck twitter app.