Tuesday I went to an event called "green drinks" here in Seattle. It's a very casual, low key event that seeks to get a group of people interested in environmental topics and issues in one place for drinks / socializing. It reminded me a lot of ignite Seattle in that same kind of buzzing - surrounded by like minded people - kind of experience. I think that those kinds of feelings are incredible empowering, it reminds you that you aren't alone and that if you needed to you could rally support for something.
If nothing else Green Drinks succeeds at being fun, something that the founder of the Seattle chapter considers when planning the event. And I agree I think that without that aspect of fun and excitement eventually participation begins to decline and the mix of new people to broaden the horizons of the group or to push them to act fades away.
However I found that much like many of the geek events I go to, the people who attend tend to clump together in familiar and easy social groups (friends, acquaintances or people they otherwise already knew). While this is the way of most large social gatherings (and green drinks appears to be pulling in quite a crowd, I would guess on the order of 300 participants), I always feel like more could be done to help unite the groups, get them outside of their shell, and to think beyond the event. Because while green drinks is great, it is not environmental activism, activism is what happens when these people find each other, become united on a cause and grow the community such that it exists pervasively, not only at a once a month event.
To better define the problem, I believe that at least two things must exist for communities to form.
So how do we begin to start dialog at green drinks, and how to we begin to foster greater interaction?
The answer is going to be difficult, it might be games, or talks or little talking pieces, or maybe and intersection of technologies like noonhat, and it's going to be unique given the group of people that are participating. However, regardless of what it is, it's primary job should be to break down the predefined bounds that hold the groups already in place together, and help to inject the new people into those smaller communities until the mixture is homogeneous (a dangerous word). It occurs to me that the description above is exactly how soap interacts with oil and water.
And so to bring it all back... I think we need some more soap, and not just at Green Drinks, we need it at work, at geek events like ignite Seattle, and we need it in life.