Our first Campfire Circle meeting brought us into the here and now
Before Saturday, Campfire Convention was still largely a concept. The developers are still hard at work building the website which they have been doing since last summer and we’re shortly to open it up to the first testers. All has been moving along nicely on that front.
Saturday was a revelation to me because it brought together the first active members in one place to gather and talk, to discuss ideas, to hear me outline why I’d started this and to show them the site and how we could contribute together to maximise the potential of doing stuff together.
The concept of the Campfire Circle meeting is one of three types of Campfire event mooted so far. As a blueprint for a format that our spring AGM might follow, this was our chance to grapple with the serious business of what we want, how we set things up, how we structure it, how we engage collectively, what excites us and what future directions we can follow.
Having read through the questionnaire forms that our first Campfire flagbearers filled in, it’s all fascinating stuff. “I’m in interested in gatherings, not the usual ‘festival’ set up but something with ideas and conversations with music, with the potential to make something happen” said Carol Alevroyianni and Ruth Whiteheart saw it as “a social network with depth.”
What excites people? It’s different, it’s a new social paradigm, the chance to meet like-minded talented people, ideas sharing, the smaller scale of the events, the ethos, the broad reach of the concept across all aspects of life, its co-operative nature, the forming of a new community with all its potential to improve society, the forum for debate and discussion, the potential of Project engagement and building and sharing a portfolio of skills, exciting collaborations, being able to find ‘new stuff’, it could contribute to political change, a “new way that feels like an old and natural way” said Jaime and Sharon was excited to be “being productive and connecting without wading through pictures of kittens” and Liz predicted that “the community will evolve on a shared values basis” or as Caroline described it, “self growth within a conscious community”.
Tagging posts and being able to build resources was a feature of the site’s functionality that people valued greatly. Establishing early guidelines and protocols amongst the Founder Members was seen as being important so that both existing and incoming members could easily find and add to reference material and comment on posts. Projects (subscription members) and the Library (centrally curated) will enable members to keep related content together, and the tagging system will make this workable throughout site providing that due care and attention is paid to it when members upload content.
It’s “nice to be in at the start” said Sally. There was a feeling that together we were doing something truly pioneering, yet we were all aware that in no ways should Campfire be seen as excusive and this figures on several people’s lists of potential concerns. Whilst it was generally felt that the idea of free social networking carried baggage that ultimately corrupted or diminished the experience, it’s nevertheless important that we offer a free version of the site and a chance for people who are unsure about contributing financially to the concept have a chance to sample the flavour and contribute to the community.
Alongside that model would be the favoured idea of a subscription which also paid back to the members via a marketplace, the Campfire Foundation and the share scheme designed to share profits to the most active members of the community.
Andy Willett wrote to me to follow up on how we might do this “We could come up with some sort system similar to the old co-op where as well a being a customer (subscriber) you had a stake in the success of the idea and therefore more motivated to spread the word and make it succeed . You could maybe combine the physical event with a type of AGM where reporting back to stakeholders was part of the event. Members could subscribe whilst gaining credits for number of months they had been a member or for other tasks which have a value (nectar points comes to mind now, was stamps in old co-op and in theory can be redeemed for things such as facilitating another persons membership.)
Andy’s ideas fit well with the ‘kudos’ model I outlined in a recent article, where members are recognised and rewarded for their community work, which might be length of membership, introducing others to the campfire, joining a Guild editorial team, posting their ‘genius’, writing articles that receive likes, comments and shares, getting involved in events etc. We are able to set the variables exactly as we want. As Firestarter I wouldn’t want to benefit from the Kudos scheme and I also stressed that this isn’t about competition, it’s about respect and recognition in the community. And giving back.
We are already creating our own stars. Ed Richardson received a spontaneous round of applause for his YouTube video mapping of the summer event site, Pete Blunt talked eloquently about his events experience and what he valued about Campfire, Josie Kemp devised some games that sorted us into groups to discuss the things that most motivated us about the Campfire concept, Sharon Prendergast and Cathryn Butler kept things running on so many levels during the day. Jaime Jackson had put together a campfire video loop, Lee talked about the ritual and symbolism around that great leveller, the campfire itself, which should always be at the centre of our thinking. And Caroline Kerr talked emotionally about her work with the refugees last thing at night around the kitchen table. Ideas collided and colluded. Everyone’s star shined brightly.
Most importantly, I think we all made some great new friends.