What You Taught Me at #WiringSE

On Saturday, I attended Wiring the Social Economy, an unconference designed to highlight how techies and social entrepreneurs can work in tandem to advance community economic development. I love these events precisely because they’re not one-way, top-down affairs where the experts broadcast information at me. Rather, all participants are encouraged to pool their collective knowledge and skills, because each of us has something valuable to share.

So here are the top three lessons I took away from Wiring the Social Economy.

Lesson #1       Fear of technology still holds us back—and that’s okay.
There were three keynote speakers who kicked off the event (watch now via Livestream). Each of them expressed some level of fear or reluctance about using technology. Twitter user @wazaroff aptly summed up my initial reaction: “The spirit of the event should be how these worlds come together for progress not argue whether they should.”

But perhaps I was naïve to expect that everyone would be in the same frame of mind to skip the skepticism and jump into discussions of tactics, strategy and software.

We can’t judge, ignore or balk at people’s fear of technology—it’s real and bridging the digital divide requires us to acknowledge it.

Lesson #2       You’re safe to expand your comfort zone at an unconference.
I met Bonnie Sainsbury about an hour before we co-pitched a session (Owning Technology—Not Getting Owned) at Wiring the Social Economy. Without Bonnie, I would never have done it.

When no one showed up at first, I was more than happy to put the “law of two feet” in action by joining another discussion in progress. But then a few folks stopped by, sat down and asked questions. One participant had even left after the keynote speakers and returned specifically for our session. We ended up having a good, frank discussion and even ran over time.

I discovered that this was a safe place to try something new. You don’t have to be perfect—just willing to share what you know or think.

Lesson #3       People are hella committed to their communities.
I met or listened to laudable citizens who are passionate about a wide range of topics from how to redefine multiculturalism and animal rights to the state of childcare workers. Spending a day with these folks is both humbling and inspiring.

Since I attended Toby Barazzuol’s session (Building an Army of Social Change Agents), I want to end by plugging a few deserving semi-finalists in the $1,000,000 Aviva Community Fund competition.

Please consider voting online to support:

Canadians choose the 90 semi-finalists in three rounds of voting; the top 30 semi-finalists move on to the finals where a panel of judges make the final decisions on which ideas get awarded funding.

Voting ends on December 15!