Wow. This was great. It started really early the morning after we met the Yes Men in Brooklyn. That means we drove to Vermont after the Yes Fest ended at 10pm, and arrived at about 3am. Then up for Charles Eisenstein’s keynote at 8:30am. It was lovely, and accompanied by a great cellist, but I was a bit too tired to deal. So I had to take a nap during the first workshop session.
I came back just in time! My friend Marie Goodwin was eating lunch with Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life, and someone I’ve long wanted to meet. She’s fantastic! I sat with them at lunch and had a wonderful time. And talked with Vicki about Mutual Aid Networks, which she instantly really got the gist of and started envisioning how it could apply to her living well in her community whenever she finally ages. And she agreed to be on our Advisory Board! As did Charles Eisenstein when he showed up at lunch later. Hooray!
Later that afternoon the Brattleboro Time Traders, the local timebank, hosted a reception and featured Edgar Cahn, Gwen Hallsmith, Charles Eisenstein, and me as guests. It was really wonderful! A very special treat was that I met Eric Bachman, tech coordinator for TimeBanks USA and general great guy whom I’ve worked with off and on for 4 years but had never met in person. The whole event was really great, with some weighty conversation about community economics including timebanking, public banking, implications and promise of various approaches to economic and community life.
The next day I had the pleasure of attending Vicki Robin’s workshop on her new book and her work surrounding it, “Blessing the Hands that Feed Us” about her experiment with a 10-mile diet. Vicki is really funny and fun to listen to, and you learn a lot. It was really great.
Next session I was on the panel for “No More Throwaway People” with Edgar Cahn and Gwen Hallsmith. We focused on timebanking as part of a healthy community economy, plus ways we can connect with other community and economic approaches. It was well attended and there was some lively discussion. If I could remember all the details I’d share them here but alas, this was long ago and one of many conversations about the same topics, hot everywhere. Which is nice, but not always good for reporting on the details weeks later…
Immediately following our panel Chris and I sped off toward Boston to get to the CommonBound conference. This was huge. Sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, held at Northeastern University, there were about 600 people in attendance. The agenda was really meaty in a way that was exactly what I was looking for.
The first workshop I attended was the one I was most excited about, with Janelle Orsi from Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) and Marjorie Kelly from Democracy Collaborative, titled Deep Social Enterprise: Maximizing Impact through Structure and Governance.
I had met Janelle last year on my tour when I went to a SELC workshop on mutual aid societies, akin to the savings/lending/investment pools we aim to create within MANs. She is an amazing resource! and human! She has already helped me through a lot of the difficult legal questions around how we structure and operate.
I arrived early to the workshop and had a chance to talk with her more in-depth about MAN developments and came away super excited. In particular, I’m exploring ways that we can use member dues and rebates within the Main MAN as a way to channel money and other resources to MAN projects that are meeting various agreed-upon goals such as contributing to our shared infrastructure, assisting other MANs, accomplishing local goals, etc. It can be our own playground for how we better identify needs and assets and help resources flow more effectively.
The workshop itself was excellent. I learned a lot about various governance approaches and the value of exploring to find the right one. I also learned a lot from my conversations with John Bloom, of RSF Social Finance, who was at my table.
There was a lot of other good stuff at workshops and in plenaries but I have too much to report on to detail it all here. Other highlights for me: the table I joined for the participatory plenary. Topic was ‘enterprise’ and I happened to join a table full of likeminded folks, including a woman from Romania who has developed a vision very similar to the MAN, and whom I hope to connect with much more! Plus Noemi from Data Commons (who I met at another fantastic workshop with the wonderful Pamela Boyce Simms of the transition movement), Crystal who does graphic design and communications work, and many more. And of course a great panel on timebanking and other complementary currencies, with Lisa Conlan-Lewis of New Hope Time Exchange, Linda Hogan of hOurworld, and Scott Morris of Ithacash (a MAN pilot site!)
The Saturday of the conference we stayed with Deborah Frieze, amazing activist and co-author of Walk Out Walk On, a book that’s been very influential to me. Her place is gorgeous, including the Old Oak Dojo, a building she’s created to comply with Living Building certification standards. And always great to connect with her, she’s brilliant. Here’s a photo of some of the gardens in her gorgeous space.
And finally, after an excellent plenary with Adrienne Maree Brown of Kresge Arts, Gar Alperovitz of Democracy Collaborative, and Gopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, we pulled together a little discussion just focused on Mutual Aid Networks, in the grass outside the conference after its end. Attending this were John Bloom of RSF, Julia Ho of MORE in St. Louis, seeking to become a MAN pilot site, Jenny Ladd of PV Network in Northampton MA, Jennifer Ly and Aaron Tanaka of Center for Economic Democracy in Boston, and Edgar Cahn of TimeBanks USA, plus me and Chris Petit of Time For the World/Mutual Aid Networks. This was a great chance to go in-depth into what it means to be a pilot site, potential benefits and pitfalls to various facets of our work, and how we’ll move forward. A great way to end the CommonBound Conference!
From there we went to Akron to spend a few days at my parents’ house and get some work done. And got the chance to have a lovely visit with the hub leaders in the Crooked River Alliance of TimeBanks at the home of the wonderful Abby Greer! We learned what some of the local hubs are doing, how they’re organizing themselves as local hubs within a larger timebank, and talked about Mutual Aid Networks. Tom Phillips, hub leader of the Stark County TimeBank, is engaged in a lot of efforts around building local food systems. There are a lot of exciting synergies between his work and MANs, and among all of the efforts we heard about.
From there we headed to Detroit, where Chris caught a bus for home and I went on to a bonfire MAN discussion hosted by Ty Diggy. This was really cool. We had a great and wide-ranging conversation and ten really active and motivated Detroiters signed up to help build the MAN.
And the final stop on the tour was Lansing, Michigan, with the great Edge Brussel (who’s been responsible for some of the videos I’ve shared, that have helped motivate us to try Neighbor-to-Neighbor Care Teams and a solar energy project). We had a MAN discussion and timebank orientation at this great venue, The Avenue Cafe and Bar, followed by a concert with me and two local groups. It was awesome and fun.
and phew! the work part of the tour was done. After that I went on my family vacation, a much needed break.
And now I’ll let you go, and thank you for reading this long long post!
Enjoy your summer days,