Event Planning

As a part of our Community Development plan we are hosting a variety of community events. We want to reach out to the communities of people growing food. We want to know who they are, what they need and how an online platform like this can help them. We also want to reach out to tell them about us, our project, and what we need from other people.  I personally believe, and have seen in past work with community organizations, that mutual aid is essential when we start proposing new frameworks, new strategies and new ways of working together. Community development is about relationships.

I organized two events in my home city Montreal, QC. Before creating these events I asked myself:

Why Should an online site host real life events?

And what kind of events should they be?

What will OpenFarm get out of these events?

What are the goals?

How will I try to achieve them through this event?

How will I measure success?

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Bridging Analogies

I have come to see my job at OpenFarm as a kind of bridge between earthy garden farming communities, and the geeky online community that created OpenFarm. It has been really interesting for me to see the fundamental parallels between the two worlds, seemingly so far a part. And on an introspective level, to see my core values and beliefs echoed in two worlds that I exist in. I haven’t programmed anything since 2003 when I took and HTML class and learned how to make little images move around. It was fun. But I have a little geek in me and I studied linguistics science in my undergrad, which is like reverse programming. I also come from a family of computer programmers, geeks and engineers, so those occupations aren’t a distant reality.

Earthy-wise, I have been digging deep into the worlds of urban gardening and permaculture for a couple years now. I like permaculture because it is a very analytical, full picture approach to gardening and farming. In order to maximize your garden you have to observe and understand the dynamics of the garden system, the inputs, the feedbacks, the responses and the outputs. As I learn more about the OpenSource coding community, their work, their dynamics, their creations, I have seen a lot of parallels with permaculture.

Flowers for example. In a monoculture approach to growing food there is no need for flowers. they are weeds, obstacles, they are in the way. But in a sustainable or better yet, regenerative approach they serve a purpose. They attract pollinators, they fix nitrogen, they feed nematodes, who knows… sometimes you have to wait to find out. The OpenSource community has flowers too. Odd little bits of code designed to do seemingly ‘valueless’ tasks, silly little strings of code written by the creator for nothing but pleasure, game, practice. But these little bits could be integrated into another longer paragraph and in that context they play an important role, and in another context could bring a different edge to the results. Can you see I am loving this jam?

Hosting a Workshop at the CSSC Convergence

10838215_10152841120148683_7691694612745659232_oOver the weekend I hosted a workshop at an event known as the convergence. The California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) hosts these biannual events at universities across the state. A convergence is an event for students who are passionate about and work in the three branches of sustainability; economics, equity, and ecology. It is a time for students to share their projects, ideas, knowledge, and inspiration with one another.

This quarter the convergence was held at LMU and the theme was “Strengthening Connections: Thriving Together”. They explained,

We are at the intersection of intertwining and complex social, environmental, and economic systems. By understanding how we shape these conditions we can explore new ideas and organizing models that disrupt and replace the status quo. This work will require that we cultivate strong mutualistic relationships with each other to ultimately ensure we collectively thrive and adapt to a changing planet.

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AdaCamp, listening and emergent ideas from collective spaces

Last week I attended AdaCamp Montreal. AdaCamp’s website describes it as  “a two-day event dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture, including open source software, Wikipedia and other wiki-related projects, open knowledge and education, open government and open data, open hardware and appropriate technology, library technology, creative fan culture, remix culture, translation/localization/internationalization, and more.”

Simon, from our OpenFarm team, suggested that I attend and I am really glad that he did. The unconference was enriching and helpful for me both personally and for my work with OpenFarm.

I have a bit of a geek in me, but I don’t program. So working on a team to build an online platform is comprehensible to me, but a bit out of my field. It was so great to connect and converse with people who are passionate about their work in technology, especially other women.

AdaCamp is an unconference. For any readers who don’t know what that means I will break it down a bit. Unconferences are a part of the popular education and OpenSpace Technology movements. Popular education is non hierarchical method of education and a great tool for community development. I would love to go on about Roberto Friere, and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed right now, but for the sake of staying on point, that is talking about my AdaCamp experience, I will just link some keywords for you. OpenSpace Technology was created in the eighties by organizational consultant Harrison Owen. You can read his thoughts on this format for meeting here.

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Making Wins

I spent one hour listening to a talk about Ayurvedic and macrobiotic food movements. Most of the time I didn’t feel like the talk was directly relevant to OpenFarm. In fact, much of it seemed like playful banter and choir preaching. I came to this talk expecting to meet up with an ally who was going to introduce me to a few Cal Poly students. These were students who would potentially be interested in shadowing community members. In my mind they would be the first students to pilot our shadow program, and would glean information from local gardeners and create guides from what they learned. They didn’t show up, however, and my ally said they may not have been quite as interested as she had been led to believe.

So I’m sitting at this talk, hosted by the local seed savers organization, feeling like I’m wasting my time. I didn’t get the tangible outcome I was hoping for (student commitment to join the program) and I’m listening to someone who doesn’t even grow plants. I stuck around for thirty minutes to see if the students would show up, and when realizing they were not going to I contemplated cutting my losses and leaving. But then I realized I would have nothing to show for my efforts. What would I have learned or gained?! These are the questions I often find myself asking as I become accustomed to documenting my successes and challenges. Continue reading Making Wins

A Community of Members, Not Users

OpenFarm is all about community. It is a place where individuals and groups of people come together to share their knowledge in the commons, learn, and connect. When thinking about the people of OpenFarm and how they interact with the website and the rest of the community, we found that the traditional web terminology of users didn’t quite capture everything that these people are. Sure, people are users of OpenFarm the website, but they’re so much more than that. They’re also sharers of wisdom, learners, editors of Crops, creators of Guides, friends of others, and at the core of it all: members of the OpenFarm community. So today we’re announcing that OpenFarm is now a community of Members, not users. Here a few specific reasons why we like the change:

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