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Worldchanging Epicenters?
Alex Steffen, 14 Oct 04

One of the absolutely coolest things about doing Worldchanging has been all the amazing people we've met though it. It's been great to get to know all you great folks out there who have sent email, commented on posts, contributed suggestions, linked to us in your blogs, showed up at our parties or just stopped one of us at an event to say hello. I, at least, can't begin to tell you how much more confident and optimistic about the future you guys make me. But as cool as the worldchanging crowd is, it's all those allies we're now aware of but haven't yet met who really send the chills up my spine.

An incredible network of worldchanging innovators is emerging, swarming out of the planetary woodwork. The 1,400 projects and solutions we've highlighted so far on this site are really just a scratch on the titanium surface of a movement of networks which is diversifying, connecting and accelerating by the day.

The great glue of of this network is obviously the Net. But networks don't live by bits alone. Networks are made of people, and in order to do truly remarkable things, people need to get together, rub elbows, trade gossip, try out ideas, flirt, schmooze, encourage and learn to trust, admire and love one another. Conferences are great for this. Festivals sometimes can galvanize an entire Zeitgeist. But movements really rise or fall on the strength of on-going social occasions -- salons, showcases, the right bar, the right cafe, the place it's happening. These third places are the epicenter of any movement, no matter how tectonic in its effects.

But where are they today? I might venture a few guesses. I might suggest a few models (most famously, Aula). But above all, I'd be interested in hearing about the places you think worldchangers are to be found, in the cities you're at home in.

Or is there a lack of epicenters? That, too, might be revealing. What would you like in an ideal worldchanging epicenter? Would you like more opportunities to share ideas with worldchanging kinds of folk?

We'd like to know what you think!

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I would love to have a place to connect in person with like-minded people, particularly if it encouraged action (big or tiny). I have some ideas which I'd like to put in place, but particularly as someone living in a country with a different language, it's hard to find people to share them with.

I'd also welcome a (perhaps loosely facilitated) forum in which people talked constructively and intelligently about ideas without simply regurgitating popular themes. In the last place I lived I considered starting a discussion & awareness group - using regular info papers for discussion provided by an organisation who encourages groups to do just this - but you had to commit quite some money upfront which I didn't want to gamble unless the gathering found some momentum. I also had some questions about this approach given that the people I'd attract to a circle meeting were already quite informed, so the material might not be compelling enough.

Posted by: Jel on 15 Oct 04

Please don't call it a movement. :-)

If you want a movement, concentrate on one thing that needs to be done, and then move it into being. Then disband and repeat.

Like, how often do you hear the term 'Natural Capitalism' nowadays? Granted, we had a lot on our collective minds, what with that whole failure-of-the-republic-to-stop-a-needless-war thing to deal with (and much, much more), but it was a term that came and went as needed. You can pull it out of cold storage from time to time, but even Hawken has gone on to other terminology that builds on it.

These kinds of things are built on economic activity. For instance, in the 80s and 90s, everyone looked to silicon valley, a geographical (and geological) epicenter to see where the future was going. Not because the people were especially bright (though they were), but because they were making money. Into the 90s, there were dotcommies all around the world, following and changing the models of silicon valley. The bay area wasn't necessarily the leader any more, since the market had developed.

Who's making money changing the world? Where are they located? Does their location have anything to do with the fact that they're changing the world?

Posted by: Enoch Root on 15 Oct 04


I keep telling my bloodsucking, vampire friends who see opportunity in already stale trends like BPOs that, "Look, if we're in such a bad shape environmentally and politically, then obviously reconstruction or activism is an investment opportunity."

Yes, there are NGOs proliferating all over the place here, mis-managed, unaccountable swarms of self-sacrificial nincompoops. Here they keep talking about corporate responsibility and just talk, talk, talk.

WorldChanging for profit is definitely the way to go. I wrote recently about Viplav Communications in "India is WorldChanging" and they're such a company.

I could organise a forum where such people could come and interact in person. I'll need help so I don't have to re-invent the wheel, but yes, it could be not only a great forum, but also to spread the ideas we discuss at WorldChanging in a more tactile manner.

Posted by: Rohit Gupta on 15 Oct 04

Ok, so we put geolocation info in the database too, right?

Posted by: Vinay on 15 Oct 04

Well, epicenter for Worldchangers in Mexico are very diverse but they are very similar too: strong community sense, places where to have good food and drinks and yes, places where to show ur ideas: universities, museums, galleries, expositions, parks... So, in Mexico City the places booming with these things are the Condesa-Roma corridor and the emerging - once more - Centro Histórico (downtown).
But Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Tijuana and Monterrey are opening too to new ideas. Why? Diversity is growing there too, and the groupal way of living is giving pace to a more individualistic society. Not bad for a so tribal - and sometimes oppresing Mexican society.

I would like to use the approach proposed by Richard FloridaŽs book: The Creative Class. He says - shortly - that a creative society needs an open environment where to grown. Maybe using his lens we can have a different approach to the question: why are some countries more rich than other? And why some rich societies now, like the Saudi Arabian, may be doomed if they donŽt open up the potential of their creative class, and soon.

Posted by: Alfredo Narváez on 17 Oct 04

Aula (the node as crash-pad in Helsinki) is indeed an inspiring example. But I'd like to suggest that we do not over romanticise small, in-between and under-capitalised places and organisations like Aula: they are best seen as intermediary training-grounds pending the moment when we re-claim and re-purpose the major insitutions of connection and reflection that already exist in most cities - namely, universities, museums, art galleries and the like. They've become creaking production lines for commodified knowledge and spectacle, but that need not last. Major change needs major public places to do it in.

Posted by: John Thackara on 17 Oct 04

Zaid emails with this suggestion:

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 18 Oct 04



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