For a couple of years now we’ve been hearing about social enterprises, social capital and social networking. With so many of us on social websites like Facebook and Twitter, sharing things in common with old friends and new, both in-the-flesh and virtual, is now the norm. It’s as everyday as e-mail.
The social network
While there’s definitely some valid criticisms floating around out there about so much of our lives being lived online, it’s worth remembering the power of these networks to shape new ideas and help bring forth a new ethos. And they’re not just confined to the online world.
Everyone I know still spends the bulk of their lives with others in person, doing things, getting together, living large and living local! Those in danger of too much online time should self-police to keep a balance between e-connecting and real connecting. But the one can serve the other.
All around the country and the world all kinds of community connection and action hubs are springing up to answer that latent need for community so subsumed in the industrial age, breaking through the me-first barriers to find the we-first frontiers.
Where to go, what to do?
A few suggestions from my own experience may help you find ways to bring your friends together for locally-based projects, and even to meet new people in low-pressure situations who share things in common with you.
A local group I was once involved with, and still follow the doings of—Staunton Green 2020—throws a monthly event called Green Drinks. They are one of many local groups worldwide hosting such an event, which is a “no-agenda” social gathering for folks to mingle around shared interests in the environment, clean energy, and the new economy.
And though Green Drinks events are held in spots where one can grab a (hopefully local) cold one, you don’t have to drink to participate. The one I go to is far from a gathering of lushes.
I’ve even seen families and single parents bring their kids to Green Drinks—milk and juice anyone? This is important if people want to participate but have to juggle little ones. Just adjust to what is right for you, but by all means, get out there and meet people face-to-face who care about the things you do. You never know what new work, friends, or life experience may spin off from it.
The group I’m involved with now, Transition Staunton Augusta, throws a variety of educational, fun and networking events along with participating in things like a community garden, where folks can come together to work. We host talks and films, mingle at the farmers market, partner with other groups to help our community and are even working on a way to engage our city council in local change through an Energy Descent Action Plan.
There are about 380 Transition groups worldwide, many of whom are doing amazing work to help their communities become stronger and more focused on thriving economically at the local level while tending to energy and environmental concerns.
Transition groups are opt-in—totally. You get involved in that piece which interests you, whether it’s community gardening, a sewing circle, artists, public policy actions, infrastructural elements and more, without feeling like you have to be involved in every aspect of what they’re doing. It’s a great model for meeting people where they are, instead of asking folks to take on everything.
I strongly encourage you to check into your local Transition group, or start to “mull” having one in your town if there’s not one already.
Checking out the scene
If you’re new to the whole idea of where energy meets environment in our economy, then check your local newspaper or website listings for movies, lectures and classes around your areas of curiosity. Learning is more fun in a group and it provides a way to strengthen community bonds.
Commitment doesn’t always have to be about politics, action items and activism. It can be as simple as joining others on “walk to work” days. Or joining a bike riding club, throwing an eco-themed book club, or joining a quilting bee or canning workshop. It’s all about what feels right for you, and that will change over time.
A wise and beloved teacher of mine once said, “Whatever you do, don’t become isolated. Stay connected to people and what’s happening out there.” It’s true.
It’s hard to make that first step to show up and check things out. And from there to raise your hand, volunteer, join a committee or head one. Or just being social among strangers, as in on a Tweed Ride. But the first step is the hardest. After that, it’s all about being involved in a way that works for you and the group you’re connecting with.
As far as the virtual side of things goes, do look for ways to connect via Facebook and Twitter and sites like Evolver around the issues that interest you. Its a good way to keep abreast of key headlines and happenings in the eco-spectrum. And, as a menu scrolling across your homepage, you decide what to follow and what to ignore.
Our world is in the midst of both a dying paradigm, and a newly birthing paradigm. One is cold, individualistic, lonely and driving our world to extinction. The other is connected, engaged, responsible and inviting us all to a new, more holistic sense of what constitutes wealth and an engaging life.
Come on in, the water is fine.
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List