From Here to Community: The BarCamp Model

Looking up into the sky at a light and a craneIn the book Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here, Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman start by taking a look at single-celled organisms. Over time, many of these individual cells joined together to create integrated, multi-cellular organisms which we call plants, animals, and human beings. As this coming-together process continues into the future, they hypothesize the next state of human evolution will be the formation of integrated and interdependent human communities. A new level of multi-multi-cellular life will be born.

Further, they predict this evolution will come about through the synthesis of new technology and ancient spirituality. If one interprets “ancient” spirituality as recognizing life in all things, honoring the natural world in its infinite variety of forms, and recognizing the importance of the human soul, then here in Missoula and around the world this synthesis has begun.

In Missoula, it is taking the form of the Missoula BarCamp – an annual participant-generated “unconference” on art, technology, and making a difference in the world.

Internationally, BarCamp is a network of user-generated conferences which has its roots in the web application/open source community. Since its inception in 2005, BarCamps have been held in over 350 cities around the world. Many still focus on Internet technology; however, others have adapted the unconference format to a wide range of topics and intentions. The real estate industry, for example, has adopted the format in over 30 RE BarCamps throughout the U.S. The largest recorded BarCamp on any topic around the world took place in February 2011 in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) with 4,700 confirmed registered attendees.

BarCamps follow a simple structure, with sessions proposed and scheduled on-site each day by the attendees. In Missoula, participants are encouraged to list topics on a whiteboard which they would like to present or facilitate that day. Sessions are then chosen based upon interest among the group present. This puts each participant “in charge of the conversation for creating, contributing, and connecting.” Missoulabarcamp.org explains, “It is hard to describe the magic – it is much easier to experience the power that is available when all of our collective genius is allowed to naturally unfold, where you can walk into the room and quickly feel your way to what you need, or what you need to give.”

The Missoula intention is to bring together those who are crazy about cutting-edge technology with those who are crazy about our windows into the soul with those who are crazy about the structures and processes for change – and see what happens.

So what comes out of a day of grassroots, interdisciplinary think tankage like this one? Probably no new laws or committees or consensus. No new jobs or responsibilities. But sharing creative ideas in community in a spirit of respect, engagement, and fun will most certainly send some of us home with new energy for a web app or nonprofit event or e-book that could change the world. And the more we draw out a common language and intention from our diverse viewpoints and skills, and the more we let it spread through our friends, neighbors, and colleagues, the stronger we will grow this new organism of the future, which we call “community.”

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