When you decentralize your event, the community cancels it themselves

Particiaptory events have been a big part of my life for quite some time. For years, I have been deeply involved in The Borderland, which is now dealing with what to do about Covid-19. We strictly don’t have to cancel yet. In contrast to other events, we don’t have any running costs and our community is quite used to dealing with uncertainty – in 2018 we relocated the entire event in just 6 weeks after losing our location.

The Borderland is a lot more decentralized in its governance than the other events. I spoke about this at length at CCCamp last year. What is interesting is to see how things play out in a crisis like this.

  1. On February 29th, @brooks is still hoping that the event will happen but raises the issue that it will be a very different year with an increased need for hygiene awareness.

  2. During the discussion on March 1st, it becomes evident that things are getting worse quickly and that we don’t really know what the force majeure policy is, so the thread is forked. This thread goes on while the crisis is unfolding and is the only place in which the Borderland as an organization is doing its sensemaking, and doing it transparently.

  3. On March 29th, the treasurer Jonas starts gathering advice on a proposal to stop all spending until April 30th, as to not spend money that we may want to use for reimbursements.

  4. As other events cancel, the Borderland takes its time. There is no need to rush as there are no running costs and no contracts are signed until the end of April. On March 30th the chair of the board, Diana, makes a post to make clear the discussions on the board. She makes it clear that at this point, the board is not going to step in to make decisions, and that it’s up to the community to use the decision-making protocols in place to do so.

  5. Community member Nicolas takes the torch and puts together a proposal to cancel. This develops into a discussion on how we can cancel and still facilitate activities in 2020 that “keep the lights on” and make proverbial lemonade.

I find all of this interesting as a data point on how a decentralized community can handle a crisis, so I thought I would share it.

I’m sure there are a lot of interesting examples now of how grassroots orgs are dealing with disruption. I would be willing to bet that while the value provided by these grassroots orgs is enormous, they are relying a lot less on bailouts and more on a built-in resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Hey hey Hugi,

I hear you. I understand what you’re going through. When people are afraid, “fight or flight mode” clouds the brain and communication can deteriorate very quickly. You have people viewing the situation from very different perspectives due to emotional conditioning and responses - affirming how you feel and view the situation and encouraging others to do the same, and especially when they take decisions will at least give some more clarity.

Unfortunately, fear with a side order of responsibility will be the dominant dirver in a time like this. Many will say that that’s a good thing. In either case, I think you’re experiencing emotional dissonance and there won’t be harmony unless you strengthen empathetic listening - “I feel this”, “I believe that”…

This feels really far away from the picture I am trying to paint. In fact, I sense very little fear in the Borderland community. And no feeling of “fight or flight”. If anything, I sense excitement over a chance to make some lemonade out of a batch of lemons that wasn’t on the shopping list.

What brings you to that conclusion from what you’re seeing?