June 3 – Thursday – Reworking the World
Last night was quite a sight. First, it doesn’t get dark here until past midnight and starts getting light by 3am. So when I say sight, I mean you can see clearly. I also mean to say – there was something to see. The 1700 participants at Rework are housed between three cities – in cottages, hostels, and hotels. These are small towns. I am staying in Leksand Strand, a 2.5 km walk from the event. We take buses at the end of the evening. I sit down next to Issac from Ghana. He and his pal Gabi (from Cameroon) are here as part of a ten person multiple country team to talk and learn about youth, ecology, and entrepreneurship. I share a bit about thrivability. Isaac is convinced I should talk to the World Bank guy that arranged for him to be here. He is animated and enthusiastic. When his contact calls, he hands me the phone. I agree to meet this gentleman later.
A bus of people arrives, and we all have to find our shared rooms. The staff has a non-alphabetized list which has changed from the plans they sent out to some earlier. It is chaos. A long line. Another bus arrives. The line is longer. Line-mates start to talk. We start to brainstorm how we are going to improve the situation. One person says we should just go to a room – whatever room – and go to bed. Maybe we should organize ourselves to make it easier on the staff. They try to improve it by opening a second desk, but the light is not quite good enough to read by. Everyone wants to see it at the same time. However, this, I think, is actually a wonderful opportunity to get to know people near me. The woman behind me is Elina. She is a student in Southern Sweden. She has a warm and easy way about her, which makes her delightful to talk with. Eventually, I get my cabin number and go to my cabin. The door is locked. I have to run back, push through the line, and ask for a key. Someone from staff takes a golf cart over to the cabin and opens the door. My cabin-mate is sleeping already.
In the morning, Elina is in my group for the nature walk. After breakfast, we form into small groups of about a dozen. A guide takes us into the nature reserve next to our cottages. We walk together, then in pairs, then in single line. We pause by Lake Siljan. We focus on our senses. First of skin, feeling the wind, our clothes, and feel of the ground. Then we focus on sound, sight, smell and taste. Our guide is specific about something to sense, so we can really focus on the sensation. Then she invites us to have our own sense experience. Next we bring in the symphony of all the senses.
The landscape reminds me of Minnesota – the land softened by glaciers and full of lakes. The climate is cold, and the trees are mostly birch, pines and cedars. There are woodland flowers blooming, and the sun creates sparkly speckled ground, as it is filtered through the trees, with their bright green branch tips.
We each meditate at a distance from each other for 20 minutes. Sublime peace.
Our guide gives us space to sit alone with nature. Later I discover that Elina has a sunny spot. Mine spot was a tad chilly. I sit calmly, soaking it all in. This is a divine experience. So later, when I am at the conference, I get quickly tired of being talked at. I even grow tired of the open space that forms on the lawn outside a session grown too full. I walk away to sit in the grass and just BE. Reflect. Soak it in.
But first…the conference. Hans Rosling speaks. His talk is amazing. I have tracked his work for over 5 years now, so I didn’t expect anything new. But it was fresh! He didn’t use powerpoint to start it – he used some big boxes to represent a billion people each. How many billions can afford shoes? A bicycle? A plane trip to Malta? He uses giant props for shoes, a bicycle, and a plane. What about demographics 50 years ago? Now? In the future? Then he showed gapminder, revealing how those people can be divided by age ranges and locations. Fascinating. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to explore.
Bo Ekman interviews Elinor Ostrom. I am so excited to hear Elinor speak live. But no, Bo went on and on about things.. and finally, when he gave her the floor, it was all too brief. Very disappointing. Not Elinor mind you, just the way it was handled. And one of the questions she was asked at the end, got a really interesting answer that sticks with me. Someone asked, “What models do you think work?” And Elinor replied something to the effect of – we are in trouble as soon as we have models… Days later I would point to it again and again – we prototype, then practice, then prototype again. Let us be agile rather than static. I even think this is a piece of holding thrivability – it is not a static plan or set of practices – instead it is an aim, where we will evolve our plans and practices over time. Practice with me.
For lunch, I walk over to the meal tent with Cilia. She does intercultural awareness work with organizations and has her MBA from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. This event clearly speaks to her. We sit together to talk more. Our seats are with two friendly folks – an Ecuadorian (originally from Kentucky) and an Australian (management consultant). The older gentleman from Ecuador has a school there, about 2 hours canoe trip… And he knows of Bill and Lynn Twist and the Pachamama Alliance (mutual connections abound in the oddest places). The conversation moves focus from one person to another. The discussion is lively. We discuss thrivability as a concept, testing out each person’s feel for it. (This happens in nearly every conversation I enter – people want to play with the idea. And I am happy to engage.)
In the afternoon, I have been sitting in the HUB popup rather than attending sessions. I didn’t come to this conference because of the speakers. I came to meet people. So meeting is what I am doing. Christina Jordan, from Brussels, says that Simon from the HUB in Brussels is at the HUB popup. I introduce myself. And then I meet Jay Standish. It is funny (brain tickles) to meet – accidentally – people you already follow on twitter. After a half hour of talking, we had uncovered dozens of mutual connections and interests. Niclas Ihren meets me there too. Then Juan Carlos is there, standing at the Zanby desk talking with Leif. What? I had to take a deep breath. I met Juan Carlos in Mexico in March of 2008. Could it get richer? Oh yes, so then Jay knows Juan Carlos too. So all of us go together to dinner. And we are going to sit with someone Juan Carlos knows names Morel Fourman. It is a small world. Morel is with Gaiaspace (where my friend Mushin works). This is all magical. The conversation is fast and intense. We hear Juan Carlos speak his idea, and we discuss it. Brilliant!
Then there is dancing… to Saulti Sol. Time to play…