Connecting Social Innovators in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland

I facilitated a session at the Wiring the Social Economy unconference in Vancouver yesterday about connecting social innovators around the Cascadia bioregion. Specifically, the discussion focused on how best to connect folks working on similar issues in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. Lots of great folks showed up and offered their thoughts — thanks to everyone who participated!
Here are my raw notes from the session. Notes from other sessions can be found on the conference wiki.

Connecting Social Innovators in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland
Wiring the Social Economy
Vancouver, BC
December 4, 2010

Session facilitated by: Chris Coldewey – coldewey AT gmail –

Session premise:
Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are culturally very similar, and are filled with people tackling similar problems. The border shouldn’t be such a hindrance to communication and sharing, but it is. How can we connect social innovators across these three cities so that we can learn what’s working in each city, share best practices, and inspire each other?

Raw session notes:
  • Why
    • Need to create learning community that people in each city can sign on to
    • One benefit could be getting a better understanding of cultural/political diffs
    • Not just about sharing, but BC can project its influence for the larger benefit of the region
  • How
    • Rallying meme: Republic of Cascadia. Create a unifying glossary of terms to brand the movement
    • Tedx as inspiration: Create a “TedxCascadia” or “ChangeCamp” that brings together people from Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.
    • Create a “Sister Cities” one-day event framework (like Tedx in general) that could be franchised/replicated by people wanting to create similar “sister cities” types of conferences around the world
    • Collaborative organizing
    • Include Victoria too!
  • Kinship areas btw YVR/SEA/PDX
    • Housing
    • Composting
    • Open data
    • Transportation
    • Small business
    • Food carts
    • Community-based broadband
    • Startup tech cos
    • Possible themes: Environment, Culture, Economy
  • Offline vs. offline issues
    • In-person conferences are great, but are expensive and by definition can only include a few people
    • Could have simultaneous conferences and stream video from different locations to each other (like when Tedx confs show videos)
    • Unconference format can be useful, but there may need to be an alternative for more in-depth discussions
  • How to keep the momentum between annual conferences
    • Regional awards / award ceremonies
    • Big event annually, smaller events throughout the year. E.g., Compost or Housing get-together / field trip / mini-conf
    • Online/offline: Universities like Emily Carr are good at connecting offline and online learning
    • Online tools: e.g. Maestroconference (conference call service that enables facilitators to break listeners into groups)
  • What exists now

PopTech Ecomaterials Lab

As profiled on Worldchanging in November 2009, future-focused conference organization PopTech has partnered with Nike to convene a year-long “innovation journey” on new green materials and industrial processes. Their first event, the Ecomaterials Lab, occurred last week.

About PopTech Labs:

PopTech is bringing together a network of innovators and decision-makers, brilliant and unconventional, to explore new ideas and identify areas for collaboration and ways to accelerate change in a domain of vital importance to business, society and the planet.

This exclusive and moderated learning session among a one-of-a-kind network of thought-leaders will rigorously map the issues, challenges and opportunities around a specific area of future change, and identify new incentives to unlock further innovation.

Ecomaterials Lab questions to be answered:

What are the new ultra green materials and where do they come from?
How would the global industrial supply chain need to change at scale to adapt to these new materials?
What are the incentives needed to accelerate innovation in the creation of new materials and supply chain adaptation?

August 2010 Ecomaterials Lab event writeup:

Collectively, we unearthed a number of deep insights into this emerging domain. We learned that while we’re spending all of our time thinking about sustainability and climate change in terms of energy sector, in many ways materials may represent a bigger and more impactful part of the problem.

We learned about an entirely new, emerging paradigm within the field of lifecycle assessment, that is revealing how materials that look ‘green’ frequently aren’t; that the reverse is also frequently true. We saw firsthand that the biosciences are about to have as big an impact on the energy and materials sectors as they do in healthcare. We learned that industry is way ahead of government in thinking about these issues and that both are way ahead of the average citizen.

And we saw firsthand demonstrations of technologies that turn everything from chicken feathers, spider silk, and even raw sewage (!) into useable biopolymers. Most importantly, we created a new and, for the field, unconventional network of thought leaders who are already beginning to collaborate.

Seth Godin Linchpin Meetup Recap & Book Recommendations

When Seth Godin announced a series of reader meetups oriented around his new book, Linchpin, I decided right away to organize the Vancouver event. Linchpin’s themes of overcoming internal resistance and bringing a sense of art into one’s work have resonated with me as I have developed RedRovr, and I looked forward to meeting others who felt the same. Vancouver had an absurdly high number of folks interested in this meetup, on par with New York and London’s responses, so it was clear I was not alone!

Thanks to everyone who came out that night for creating a great event! Here’s a recap of how the night went, and links to the books and blogs we talked about:

Gift, Skill, Attitude

We kicked things off with a short talk by Steph Corker Irwin, who spoke about her week with Seth in New York as part of his nanoMBA program. Steph led a discussion about the extent to which the qualities of leaders we admire are a gift, skill, or attitude. As the group weighed in, it was striking and somewhat liberating how almost every quality was seen as ultimately a skill or an attitude, i.e., something you can wake up in the morning and choose to work on.

Open Space Discussion

I had the group write up topics they wanted to discuss and post them at the front of the room. We organized the topic suggestions into clusters which formed the basis for lightweight discussion groups. In line with open space principles, people could come and go from these groups as they wished, joining in on any discussion they wanted. The topics were wide-ranging, and included:

  • Overcoming the lizard brain
  • Gift, Skill, Attitude continued
  • Moving ideas into action
  • Crowdsourcing innovation
  • Making a difference in the world
  • Linchpinning education
  • Using business to save the world
  • What should I read next?
  • Creating community
  • Painting your life’s picture
  • The NanoMBA
  • When to ship
  • Creating Linchpinvilles

Book Recommendations

I spent a lot of time in the “What should I read next?” group. Thanks to Matt and Dave for drafting up this fantastic list of the books we discussed. For those inspired by Seth Godin’s work and Linchpin, check out the following books.

I went a bit berzerk here: you can see them all on this Amazon list of Linchpin Meetup Book Recommendations. You can see the raw list of books below, loosely categorized by me. And if you scroll down all the way, you’ll see a Librarything widget with covers and other info for every book.

Marketing, Sales, Customer Service:
  • The Art of Woo
  • Free Prize Inside
  • Delivering Happiness
  • Flip the Funnel
  • The Cluetrain Manifesto
  • Words That Change Minds
  • Made to Stick
  • How to Sell Anything
  • Switch
  • Making Ideas Happen
  • The Art of the Start
  • Startup Nation
  • Early Exits
  • Everything is Miscellaneous
  • Cognitive Surplus
  • The Long Tail
  • What Would Google Do?
Learning, Leadership, & Personal Development:
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  • A Whole New Mind
  • The Creative Habit
  • The Art of Non-Conformity
  • What Makes The Great Great
  • Me to We
  • Style Statement
Business & Misc:
  • The Singularity is Near
  • Superfreakonomics
  • Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
  • The Glass Castle
  • The Mirror Test
Blog recommendations from the group: Library at LibraryThing

Thanks for reading!

Linchpins are everywhere


I’m organizing a meetup in Vancouver tomorrow (June 14) around marketer Seth Godin’s book Linchpin. The Vancouver event is part of a worldwide series of meetups about Linchpin all on the same day – set into motion by Seth but organized locally by volunteers.

Vancouver has the 7th largest showing worldwide (!), behind cities like New York, London, and San Francisco. If you’re in Vancouver on June 14, you should come. If not, see if there’s a meetup in your city.

For more info on Linchpin: see roundups of reviews here and here.

Want Seth Godin to come to your city? Request it on RedRovr!