A wise friend of mine likes to say “be the thing that you’re on about”. In my world where organizations are encouraged to take bigger risks, often relying on the advice of digital change agents to direct them to unmapped territory, you want to be sure those giving you advice have actually been there before.
While most of my career I’ve spent making things – twenty years of building and planning websites has taught me a lot – the thing I’m most “on about” is the importance of engagement and the power of networks in transforming how institutions make social change happen. And where I learned a lot of that is starting and stewarding Web of Change.
Not so much in the starting of it – starting something is easy – but in the tending and caring and engaging of others in it over the past 15 years.
The ideas spawned by Web of Change have certainly gone mainstream: from open source campaigning to distributed protests, from network campaigns to creating more “lean startup” style organizations, to having digital leaders sit on a senior management team or even running “digital-first” organizations. By now our well over 1,000 Web of Change alumni are responsible for most of the strongest digital campaigns on the continent.
After 12 years of running this event and community from inside my company, now Web of Change is all grown up: it’s a registered Washington DC nonprofit, with it’s second generation and amazing board of directors, a powerful peer mentorship program, and events popping up all over North America, including our second US based flagship event at the stunning Easelen Institute this fall.
But what I’m most excited about is helping to enable a truly “leaderful” community to gel around the event. The thing we all talk about and want/beg our clients and employers to become – embracing member engagement, doing deep listening, encouraging network effects – Web of Change has always been. And that’s why I know this stuff works.
Once or twice in your life, if you’re lucky, you get to be involved with something that truly transforms people’s lives and maybe even the world. Web of Change is definitely that for me and I am so grateful to have been able to serve my community and multiple movements in this way.
Feeling pretty responsible for the community and what it meant in so many people’s lives and careers, it took me about five years to complete my transition out and ensure we had the committed leadership who shared the initial values of Web of Change but also the passion and new ideas to help it become something even more interesting.
The best part about moving on? Watching the new team be able to produce epic storytelling pieces like this “board report” impact infographic, and having literally nothing to do with it. Now that’s a leaderful engaged network. I can’t wait to see what the community does next.