Open Hollyhocked: Hearts, Minds and Snowballs

September 9, 2008 § 1 Comment

Almost in Phnom Penh, and Open Everything Hollyhock is world away. But a wonderful world it was. Thirty five passionate, generous and smart people gathered amidst the trees and mountains of British Columbia to rap about the art, science and spirit of ‘open’. It was a great week of sparks and insights, building enough momentum that the Open Everything snowball may now be slowly rolling downhill.

Like the Web of Change events that inspired it, the Open Everything retreat was a real mix of head and heart. On the head side, we took a number of runs at asking ‘what’s open?’ and mapping different open domains (lots of good docs about this on the wiki). We also did the now-traditional speedgeek showcasing open projects in areas as diverse as software, education, philanthropy and sustainable housing (videos coming soon). On the heart side, we had an open leadership session (find your inner purpose and follow it) led by Jeff Balin and p2p coaching session under the banner ‘personal board of directors’.

This head / heart mix led to some pretty deep people connections. As Zak said: people didn’t have their game face on, and that meant you could go further than at a traditional conference. This was especially impressive given the diversity of participants. Old open source hands. Serious social change grantmakers looking to loop open into their practice. Open standards activists. People inventing the new domain of open eduction. Change agents trying to promote open collaborative practices in big institutions. Idea hackers and social innovators. Despite the diversity, it felt like a room filled with kindred spirits.

My deepest personal light bulb was around ‘what is open?’. Listening to people talk, it was clear that there are a couple of rough clusters that we’re talking about — values (sharing, transparency, the commons), things (software, songs, textbooks) and processes (creation, management, learning). We trow ‘open’ at all of these things. Yet, what open means is likely a bit different for each, especially if you want to ‘test’ whether something is open or not. I am going to go through the wiki notes and post something bigger on this in the next week or so.

Thanks (again!) to everyone who made this amazing event happen! There certainly will be a next time. A number of people including Danese, Duane, Erika, Helen, Jeff and Zaheda have already expressed interest in shaping future events — the annual retreat (I will stay involved), local events (I’ll likely do fewer of these in future) and possibly something specific on open leadership (a new idea that emerged at Hollyhock). If there are others that want to help drive events or evolve the wiki content, jump in and let everyone know. Let’s see if we can get this open everything snowball rolling.

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