Thoughts from a Web of Change Veteran

Some might describe Web of Change as a journey. Or a trip. Not Darren Barefoot, despite the fact that he’ll travel 5,000 miles to reach Hollyhock this September. Woo woo is not his style. He coexists comfortably with the more kumbaya aspects of the event, focusing instead on the content: cutting edge and relevant. And the people: leaders and changemakers eager to exchange ideas.

I wanted to hear why this Web of Change veteran—2012 will be his fifth time—decided the event was worth a trip from southwestern France, and what he has gained, both personally and professionally, from his involvement with the community. His answers are below:

Why do you come back year after year?
Web of Change is the most enjoyable, fruitful, educational event I attend every year, usually by a significant margin. As a repeat attendee, it becomes less about the sessions and more about the people who are present. While the sessions at Web of Change are excellent, I get more learning and a greater sense of the industry just from casual conversations with other attendees.

What makes the conversations so rich?
Web of Change attracts a particular kind of person: mostly digital campaigners or vendors to digital campaigners. Most are mid level to senior, a mix that you rarely find at events. They tend to be high performers. Innovators. People that are pushing the boundaries of their work. And because there are plenty of repeat attendees, and the conference is five days in a remote location, there’s a high level of trust. It’s that mix that makes it compelling.

What has been the impact on your business, Capulet?
As a long time sponsor it’s been a good investment for us, both in terms of networking and tracking trends in the movement. We have formed relationships with a whole bunch of people that have directly or indirectly given us business. And it’s gone both ways--we’ve met vendors and subcontractors there to whom we’ve given work also.

What would you tell someone considering attending for the first time?

Keep an open mind. The woo woo component pushes my boundaries, but in a healthy way. At other conferences, it’s easy to be anonymous. Web of Change is much more participatory and fluid. It rewards getting to know people personally and professionally. The community is very welcoming, so I’d encourage first-timers to be aggressive in introducing themselves to others. Be sure to experience the place too--it’s an amazing corner of the world.

What can you share about your work growing Web of Change’s thought leadership program?
This is a new initiative this year that came out of last fall’s community consultation process as a priority the community wants more of. It’s about increasing the visibility of Web of Change and pulling the curtains back to reveal more about the event and community. It’s also about capturing the best ideas and spreading them, further and wider than among our relatively small group of attendees. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge that exists on the Web of Change listserv, for instance, but it doesn’t get shared more broadly, especially to our bosses and higher ups. Capulet has helped other clients with thought leadership strategies, and we’ve worked on our own, so this something I’m passionate about.

Can you sum the annual event up in six words?
A wilderness meeting of NGO thinkers.