A Fruitful and Magical Trip: Leadership Retreat, Global Exchange Gathering

photo 2 From July 27 – August 3 I had the immense pleasure of going to the east coast to be with people who have been working on cooperative economy stuff, especially timebanking, in order to pull together to become more effective at building a caring economy. It was wonderful! Hard to express the deep nourishment I got from these gatherings, but I’ll try…

There is a lot to report here! So I’ll try to point to detailed notes in other places, so the casual reader doesn’t need to plough through them but the more curious or work-oriented reader can find them.

In order to have context for the leadership retreat, you need to know a little bit about the Knit a Network project. There are some meeting notes and initial overview here, but in a nutshell —

Knit a Network is/was an informally- and voluntarily- loosely-affiliated group of people who wish to build a sharing economy and do good work. We have come together across affiliations and other boundaries to use the tools and principles we espouse in order to build more sustainability and interdependence within and among our own efforts.

Knit a Network began in September 2012 with a 90-day challenge to identify and take responsibility for the functions necessary to sustain timebanks and other similar systems. Our network began mostly with timebanks in the United States but has also included people from other countries and other parts of the cooperative economy movement.

Work continued well beyond the 90 days, as we had expected it would. After a break where work continued slowly and in spurts (mostly collecting and sorting documents for our Knowledge Commons), we launched another 90 day challenge to wrap up the work that began in September 2012 and create visible, publicly accessible results of our work.

During the 90-day Wrap-up challenge we decided to hold a leadership retreat where we could be together in person to wrap things up and create longer-term plans and structures for ongoing stewardship of the work we’d created and collected.photo 3

photo 5Kathy Perlow (leader of Lehigh Valley Time Exchange in PA) generously offered the use of her beach house in Westbrook Connecticut, which was the perfect setting! Here’s the video the wonderful Edge Brussel created in advance of the retreat.

And we had amazing wonderful people from all over, together for 3 whole days: Kathy Perlow (and Pete too!), Chris Petit, Matthew Slater, Greg Bloom, Tim Dalton, Marie Goodwin, Martin Simon, Becky Booth, Edgar Cahn, Abby Greer, Eric Bachman, Chris Gray, Stacey Jacobsohn, Edge Brussel, Christian Smith, and Scott Morris.

The first day of our leadership retreat, 7.28, we focused on the Knowledge Commons/ Timebanking Toolkit. Some background: Over the decades timebank leaders, creators, thinkers, organizers, etc have been creating materials, proposals, articles – all of which can be veryphoto 1-1 helpful for new timebanks or people looking to develop or strengthen their own initiatives. Assembling this vast quantity of useful stuff and finding a good home for it are harder than you might think! But the Knit a Network team was able to make a lot of progress.

We found a good starter home for what we now call the Timebanking Toolkit – at the Community Currency Knowledge Gateway (to go live later this September) created by Community Currencies in Action, a project of the European Union. Here is where we will post and summarize what we currently have. We will also work to link to these resources from every group who’s interested, including TimeBanks USA and hOurworld who have already agreed to do so.

For the longer term we have a small team of forward-thinking techies and information management people who will build a database to house all these materials.photo 4-1

On 7.29 we held a meeting to discuss: Legal, financial, social, educational relationships between and among local timebanks, regional support groups, national and international umbrellas.

This was a fruitful conversation, and detailed notes are here.

That evening we convened another group to learn about Savings Pools. We were joined by Phil Stevens and Peter Luiten from New Zealand, where their local economy groups are connecting timebanking and savings pools to great effect. We were also joined by Autumn Rooney, who helped start the revolving loan fund of the Arroyo SECO Timebanks. Notes from that meeting are here.

The third day of the leadership retreat we focused on creating short video skillshares. Edge Brussel and Christian Smith photo 5of MidMichigan TimeBank joined us to do the filming – thanks! We completed 9 shorts on the following topics: Learn from our mistakes! Plus – Facilitating effective meetings, engaging organizations, facilitating the yarn game, give and receive, member engagement, fundraising, software, and governance. The format was simple: several timebanking leaders with experience in the given area held a short conversation about it. These will be edited into ~ 5 minute videos to be shared on the Timebanking Toolkit and anywhere else they may be wanted and useful.

From the leadership retreat we headed to the Global Exchange Gathering in Providence, Rhode Island. The highlights here were too numerous, and my participation in them too partial, for me to detail them here. So I’ll include a link to the schedule, a couple of my personal highlights, and a few photos.

conference audience during panelThe panorama on the left is my view from the panel on which I sat. With awesome keynote from Scott Morris (video here), and great presentations by other panelists Linda Hogan, Len Krimerman, and Chuck Collins. And thanks again to the fantastic Edge Brussel we have video of my presentation. She’s responsible for all the other videos posted here, too.

The picture of the circle of people is our workshop on Mutual Aid Networks. It was really cool. Chris Petit and I presented this slide photo 5-1show. The discussion about possibilities was wildly exciting, and we met some people who want to start Mutual Aid Networks in Zambia. One is from Zambia and the other is the new coordinator of the Phoenixville PA TimeBank. They live in Phoenixville and have a business in Zambia too, and spend time there regularly. Simon Watts of TimeBanking Australia was there too, and Edgar Cahn of TimeBanks USA (and MAN Advisory Board member!). I don’t have detailed notes from this session because I was leading it and didn’t ask anyone to take notes. But left feeling really excited and energized by the great ideas from participants, and the likelihood that we’ll work together to make a lot of them reality!

And a big highlight of the conference, for me, was Matthew Slater’s Bright Spot segment where he completely spelled out the software landscape in timebanking in the USA, how it still needs a robust open source set of tools and community of informed contributors and users, and how we might get there. He made a lot of tough concepts clear to an audience not generally tech-oriented, and showed a way forward and a spirit of cooperation and collaboration that fit well with ongoing efforts to bring our different software worlds together. He actually got a bit of a standing ovation! And well-deserved. You can see the video here.photo 2-2

I had to leave before he spoke, but the wonderful Charles Eisenstein gave this keynote on the last day.

That concludes  my report on the Global Exchange Gathering. I’m sure you can find other comments by other participants if you look.

Thanks for reading!

–Stephanie

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