Thursday, April 24, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

It's been wild around here. Earth Day is now Earth Week, and everyone wants a piece of our action. Which, in general, is a good thing, but since Mary and I are the only staff, it means that we're both VERY busy making appearances at various events and handling the day-to-day activities of the organization.

Enough excuses! Time to blog!

Here's an glimpse of the weekend up 'til now:
  • Saturday and Sunday: King 5 Healthy Living Expo
  • Saturday: Seattle Diabetes Expo
  • Sunday: Eastshore Unitarian Church Environmental Fair
  • Sunday: St. James Cathedral Health Fair
  • Monday: Farm-to-Table Workshop for Clark County
  • Tuesday: King County Earth Day Meeting
  • Wednesday: Sustainable Agriculture Symposium
  • Wednesday Evening: King County Food and Fitness Initiative Community Forum
Wow. That's a lot of meetings/events/fairs/expos/whathaveyou. But all good experiences and great opportunities to spread the word about CHC and all of the great work that we're doing.

I'll discuss one event from the list above: the Sustainable Ag. Symposium. Tim Crosby, from Growing Washington, organized the event. There was great representation from a variety of fields within the food and farming sector. I won't list all of the attendees here, but may post the spreadsheet once Tim compiles it.

I have been to quite of few of these types of meetings over the past six months and Mary has been attending them for the last decade or so. Typically, I find that these events are a great chance to get a lot of the "players" in the sustainable ag. field together to discuss current issues, ongoing projects and to brainstorm for the future. Often, though, as great as the conversation is, the outcome for the meeting is...more meetings. Sure, getting everyone together to "talk it out" is beneficial, but only to a point. After that, it's time to act. It's time to "walk the walk."

Luckily, this meeting was somewhat different. Yes, one of the major outcomes was planning further meetings, but there were some interesting "actionable items" proposed as well. For instance, I participated in a small group discussion about what's needed for innovative business development. One of our recommendations for the group was to catalog past, current and future innovative sustainable models to serve as a resource for entrepreneurs who want to "walk the walk." I think that's a great idea. It sounds simple, but it hasn't been done. It's a discreet task that could prove extremely valuable.

The need for "innovative business models" is put forth as "the way" to push positive values in our capitalist society. This may be true (I tend to agree) but it never seems to have enough follow through. Someone can have a great idea for a business, but without a thoughtful and well-researched business plan, that idea will never get off of the ground. The business world is very complex and can be extremely difficult to navigate, especially when trying to present a new idea. For the great ideas that occur at these meetings to move out of the brainstorming sessions and into the real world, they need to be examined in the context of what has worked and what hasn't worked. A catalog of models would be valuable in creating that context. It would be a tool for those who want move past discussion put together a business plan for their idea. Specifically, it would be a great asset for greater success when trying to secure funding (often the most difficult piece of the puzzle).

That's just one example of some of the concrete tasks that were discussed at the meeting. Will it actually get done? That's now in the hands of the folks that attended. I know that I've already talked with some of the other attendees to try and find methods for moving forward, beyond the brainstorming and into reality. Because it will be the work done by the smaller groups, outside of the larger meetings, that really keep the movement going forward.

I hope that this entry isn't too negative. It is not my intention to rant about meetings (though there have been a lot lately) but to try and make sure that we move out of the meeting with renewed diligence, instead of contented apathy. It's easy to attend meetings and talk about the need for new, innovative businesses/programs/organizations/etc. It's hard to actually make them happen.


No comments: