A journal, evolved

September 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

As I write this, I am looking at one of the most inspiring scenes in the world: the granite shores of Georgian Bay covered by wind-bent pine and rolling in and out of perfectly still waters. I’ve been calmly watching this scene for a week, playing with my kids, sipping wine, listening. I’ve also been sitting here reading Paul Hawken‘s new book Blessed Unrest (book reflections in another post).


Blessed Unrest reminded me of the important role that journals – and other sorts of reflective writing – can play in navigating new terrain. In particular, Hawken talks about the way Thoreau used his journal to log ideas during and beyond his time on Walden Pond. These simple logs became the seeds not only of Thoreau’s books and essays, but also of movements for peace, justice and sustainability that he barely could have imagined. Thoreau’s simple documentary record of the present became inspirational fuel for the future.

I count myself lucky that I stumbled across blogging just as I started my work on telecentre.org. Writing a journal online has helped me watch the arc of my own thinking and actions over the past two and a half years. I started out as a passionate, hurried movement builder. The many faces and hearts that inspired my blog postings helped fuel this passion. They also led me to the understanding that weaving together the atoms of modern movements is a simple matter, and also a very difficult one. It is a complex blend of leadership, patience and surrender. Seeing this is a gift that has come from keeping a journal.

At the moment, I am entering a new phase of my work, which makes me think I need a new way of writing this journal. The first steps of telecentre.org were all about a journey across the telecentre movement, seeking out the best grassroots leaders, both for myself and for each other. A series of episodic snapshots recorded on this page seemed to work well as a way to document the journey. At each stop – a country, a telecentre, a community gathering — I would write a story about “the things I was learning along the way”. For myself and the few that were reading, this provided at least one lens into the people, organizations and networks that were growing into telecentre.org.

I am now starting a different journey. It still includes work on telecentre.org, although with less focus on ground level activism (others are thriving at this piece). The job now is to help telecentre.org transform from a public sector funding program into a global community that is driven and governed by grassroots telecentre networks. Working with a talented collection of new friends at the Shuttleworth Foundation, I have also turned part of my attention to the movement for open (source) educational content, in South Africa and around the world. Both efforts are experiments in what might be called open philanthropy, thinking of the networks and connectivity make up modern movements not only as something to fund, but also as a way to work. This is a blend of very activist and very conceptual work, which I love.

As I spend my days thinking through governance models, learning about open (source) education and sketching out what open philanthropy might possibly look like, I know that I will need a journal that reflects on more than just my travels. I will need to keep notes on things I read.  Map out emerging ideas. And just doodle. I will need a broad sketchpad covering what may seem like very disparate ideas.  This will be messy, to be sure. But I think that’s what good journals are about.

As of this post, the focus of this blog page is officially evolving, with doodles, notes and messiness as the theme. Enjoy.

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