~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~

..................................Check it out!!..................................

December 06, 2006

REFLECTIONS on full-time networking in Tucson

I went to Tucson, Arizona in Oct/November to see what would happen if I became a full-time networker/pollinator. I spent a few weeks meeting with as many interesting people as possible, channeling their wisdom and sharing it as I went. At the end, I hosted a potluck and slideshow to bring people together and share my stories from Portland. It turned out to be a beautiful night…….

Click here for my little essay about the experience.

Jenny's story about the cross-pollination potluck/slideshow
Tucson, AZ, Thursday, November 16th, 2006

So I put the call out there to people who want to talk about grassroots activism and how we can learn/listen from/to each other. I put myself out there as a cross-pollinator of stories. I spent weeks floating through Tucson meeting anyone and everyone who seemed to be somehow engaged in changing the world, asking them what their story is, sharing with them stories from Portland, and planting the seed that somehow we need to work together.

And people responded.

A lot of people who showed up last night were referred by a friend who either met me or got my email, so it was almost an almost all new audience (I had met maybe 25% of the people before last night). The 50-60 people who shared the evening included a diversity of ages, interests and avenues for engaging with the sustainability/social change movement(s).

The space we were in was great. A community gathering place for 28-years, “Shangralee,” as it is called, is a grouping of four or five city lots with a protected space in the center
where a tri-weekly “sweat” happens. The central yard has a small earthen sauna (holds ~10 people), a small pool, and various sitting areas scattered under branched out trees. Numerous hammocks, massage tables and back stretching contraptions dot the yard, and three times a week, so do dozens of happy sweat-goers. A community of more than 200 people care for the maintenance and flow of the place. And, as one long-timer said, “this place is really responsive: you put a little in and get a lot out.”

So on our cool Thursday evening, a new group of people gathered at Shangralee for a delicious potluck (Tucson passed the test) and lots of interesting people to meet. The one email that I sent out, along with a scribbled poster or two that I managed to hang at a few coffee shops, community centers and the co-op, brought together a new network of people.

With every new person that walked in, I made sure to greet them, introduce myself, find out what they were into, and thank them for
spending the evening exploring these ideas. People seemed generally happy and curious about the unique place we were in and the evening to come.

At 7:32 I called people to gather ‘round. I began by introducing myself and sharing a bit about my journey and why I called everyone together… that for more than a dozen years I have been actively thinking about and working to create harmonious connections between our social and ecological systems, and through my work with non-profits, local governments, businesses, schools, and thousands of people, I realized that while it is so important that we are each working on our different issues and employing many strategies and tactics for changing the world, we need to learn from each other and work together somehow. The dominant, top-down system that controls much of our living experience is strong, and if only we could see how the sum of our parts put together is much more powerful… this is what I am asking in this year of travel and cross-pollination. Somehow, we need to figure out how to learn from each other, listen, and see that we are like an ecosystem… the product of many small connections and relationships that builds together to create larger patterns and processes.
So I am spending the year as a channel of stories, and one thing that I have learned is the value of just having the time to go to other people’s things, hear people’s stories, get out of our own “issue silos” to see how we can support each other across our movements and projects.

I continued by saying that I brought stories to share from two projects I have worked with in Portland, and that while they are both incredible stories in and of themselves, they are also examples of this idea of connecting creatively across sectors and issues to change the world in beautiful and wild ways.

But this evening was also about Tucson, and for everyone to meet and learn what’s happening here, so I carefully framed the conversation to begin and end with Tucsonians meeting themselves.

I asked people to shout out their issues of passion and strategies for change, and for about 15 minutes many people offered their perspectives. It was, of course, quite varied and interesting, and illustrated the points I had just made: the myriad issues and approaches that people offered built into a sense that we are all connected in deeper ways. It felt good to have these intentions and sharings in the air as we continued into the stories from Portland.

And as I began my slideshow, I feel like I disappeared and just became a channel of stories from City Repair and TLC Farm. I spoke for many people’s experiences, and for our collective experience.

My presentation
*see below*

Very quickly after my presentation the conversation led to something I anticipated and had previously made a commitment to myself about: I didn’t want to let any new entity, listserve or group form – the point here is that we already have so many listserves and meetings and that we need to learn how to use what we have. One woman kept saying that she wanted a list of everyone’s emails so that she could stay connected, so we asked the crowd how people can stay connected. And out came a host of networking opportunities already existing: the Sustainable Tucson listserve, the monthly Green Drinks gathering, the weekly political movie nights and Indymedia, and a handful of current projects.

One of the other interesting bits of the ensuing conversation was a group of people pleading people to help them stop a development in their neighborhood, and while we all need to work where we live, we need to also support communities in the struggle, at a time of need.

One other fun moment (for me): someone brought up the question of fundraising, and I felt really excited to share my newfound relationship with the golden opportunities and joys of asking people for money… that people feel really good when they get to say “yes” and feel part of something, and that you are just giving them the opportunity to participate in a really helpful way… just how I am giving everyone the opportunity to support my journey and the work I am doing and help me get to the World Social Forum in Kenya!

I ended the group discussion by offering people the opportunity to now meet someone new and ask them what they have to share….

…and people quickly broke into many groups of lively conversation, which continued around the
fire and the trees for hours.

Some of people’s comments to me (roughly quoted):
--“I have never said out loud to a group what I do, and it felt so good – thank you!”
--“It was so cool to meet all of these people that I sort of knew or had heard of.”
--“Somehow you have really pulled together the who’s who of Tucson’s sustainability movement”
--“I was really impressed with the diversity of ages and different kinds of people there.”
--“It was so refreshing hearing positivity and possibility – usually we just hear about what’s wrong and how bad it all is”

And various affirmations of “thank you—this was so inspiring!” and “Thank you—you are doing very important work.”

I also got a lot of great feedback about the “Tucson meet yourself” section. It is often refreshing to hear an “outsider” view of your own place.

About 25 people signed up to stay in touch and hear about my journey, and together we raised $340 for my journey, including a $100 contribution from the Health and Harmony Foundation. Thank you!!

Overall, my goal was to just bring people together and let the conversations happen for themselves… to have the evening be a dispersed ecosystem of many connections. And for me to not be involved… to just be a quiet focalizer. And to trust that that’s what we need right now…

My presentation
I began with the 12-minute City Repair video, as I think it explains the basic principles and story of City Repair quite nicely… and the professional quality of the documentary I think also builds respect and interest. The movie ends with a surge of energy about people interpreting Intersection Repair in their own way in cities everywhere, so I transitioned to the slides by showing street murals from 5 cities across the US, including the “four seasons of the prickly pear cactus” painted right here in Tucson.

The photo of two cute little kids looking at the newly painted street led me to step back and talk about the deeper impacts of the paintings… that they represent a neighborhood that has come together, created their local identity and physically imprinted it into their shared public space. With a few photos of people in circles looking at maps of the neighborhood, and kids showing off their cardboard, clay and crayoned intersection repair ideas (“after all, kids are the ones who really know the neighborhood”), I mentioned that City Repair’s role is to facilitate these projects and that we have learned a lot (and put it into the Placemaking Guidebook, available at the table by the door). The basic ideas are:
· replicable projects…

So, after a brief tangent to introduce people to cob and show a sequence of cob-dancing to cob-building, explaining why we like to use this as a natural building and community building material, I dove into an almost dizzying flow of many emanations of Intersection Repair artifacts. I showed about 30 different benches, kiosks and other forms, and pointed out that each represents what they neighborhood wanted for itself… some with crazy, curvy flowy forms and other with straight lines and roofs that matched the surrounding porches.

This built nicely into the concept of coordinating efforts for greater impact: The Village Building Convergence. And then into the question of “how do I begin?”: tea parties. With a brief overview of the T-Horse, I ended with the idea that it all starts with a conversation over a cup of tea, and then builds into a beautiful celebration of localization (with corresponding images, of course).


Then, before I dove into the story of the Farm, I asked people as a transition to close their eyes, take three deep breathes, and take in what they just heard about… and that it is all about you and me, here and now.

And onto TLC Farm: another incredible story of bringing together a lot of people over a vision for what is and what could be. I started with flashing images of the Farm from above, the potential development, and our vision of a public resource sustainability education center. I then gave a little tour of the farm to give a sense of its beauty and intrigue, and then went back to the development and our story of saving the farm. Then I moved into our work as an education and demonstration center, and the deeper layers of what it means to be a forum for many different types of groups to use the land to connect with each other and the earth. Anyone can be a visionary in an inspiring community and natural environment.

After a round of applause (but not comments/questions), I brought the conversation back to Tucson and said that I wanted to show people my experience here… I asked if people were still with me and into this idea, and heard back lots of shouts of “yes!” so I continued. The simplicity of an outside opinion can sometimes be quite impactful.

First I showed what I thought to be Tucson’s unique (but not) issues: 1. cookie cutter sprawl (“I can’t believe how there are 6-8 lane roads every half-mile cutting the city into an isolating grid and then filling the area with cookie cutter developments that have insane covenants about what people can and can’t do (no solar panels, or water harvesting, yes green lawn (in the desert!)) and I can’t wait to see how y’all retrofit this. I mean, at some point, people are going to realize that they have built themselves into a cage); 2. water – people in Tucson seem to be scared of water and want to get it away from them as fast as possible, when with your 12 inches of rain you actually have enough for all of your needs, if you only harvest it!;
3. the border and immigration – what a complex issue but what an amazing opportunity to see each other as people living together on this earth…

And then onto some of the cool things that I have found here… and into the heros I have met. All in all, I touched upon about 30 different groups and individuals’ perspectives.

This of course led quite nicely into opening it back up to the group and asking people for reactions, responses, ideas, comments, questions….

1 comment:

Charla said...

i love you so deeply jenny. you blow me away - everytime you speak -- i hear the future. of what i don't know but it all feels sincere and reflective, and holy. i see a desert with a wide clear rainbow as a good omen marking your path. learn plenty. keep yourself safe.
good tidings on your big journey across the big earth.

big love, charla