Investing in Web of Change

Web of Change is supported by more than a dozen generous sponsors that are helping to build the institution, share its learning, and make the annual gathering accessible to leaders from around the world. Aaron Welch of Advomatic explains why Web of Change is a good investment, both personally and professionally:

What inspired you to support Web of Change as a founding circle sponsor?
Advomatic has been a general sponsor over the years, just because Web of Change is a totally different kind of conference. It’s one of the few conferences that is really about peer knowledge sharing, and doesn’t turn into a vendor fest. In terms of overall impact, it’s a unique and special gathering. Last year, when Jason was leading a session on the future of Web of Change, we had a big discussion about what the next phase of life looks like. It was clear that it wasn’t going to grow and mature without the support of companies like mine. The long-term viability of the institution was important to us.

Why do you continue to go and send staff?
I think one of the biggest reasons is that I get to interact with colleagues in an environment that isn’t the standard conference atmosphere. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on what we’re doing as a community, and look at where we’re failing and where we could be doing better. It’s as much personal as it is professional. There are a lot of sessions and discussions aren’t directly applicable to us—we’re not an online organizing company—but it’s important to stay connected to those roots of where we came from, and see where people are going.

Any “aha” moments that stand out from past years?

What is special and surprising to folks that go for the first time is the low level of ego and how earnest everyone is. You have some of the biggest NGOs and organizers in the world there, and it would be very easy for those big personalities to take over the dialogue. At a lot of conferences, there’s a lot of showboating and presenting. Web of Change is about sharing that space and learning from your peers and being honest about the fights that we’re not winning. That’s extremely unusual—it’s rare to have that level of trust. In our space, big NGOs and unions oftentimes have a difficult time working together. Lots of dysfunction and bureaucracy and duplicative effort on the same issues and campaigns. So, to take the people that work in those organizations and put them in an environment where they an find common cause and make those connections and then go back into the real world and maintain them is pretty important and amazing. 



What have been the business outcomes for Advomatic?
I don’t necessary view our Web of Change sponsorship as a business development thing—that’s a secondary outcome. That being said, it is a great opportunity for us to make sure our name is out there in front of these groups and associated with the movement. It lets people know that we’re genuinely committed to the work and community. We’re not just another vendor that does business development by setting up a booth at a crappy technology conference. There is some positioning and marketing value, but its’ not somewhere we go to land deals. However, it‘s a good way to maintain our reputation as progressive firm.

Do you have a favorite Web of Change memory?
The oysters are just amazing. But, to be more serious about it, it’s kind of a small thing: Web of Change puts people in front of each other that should meet even though they don’t know it. In one of the sessions, I was sitting next to Kat Jones from Milkshake Media. We just happened to sit next to each other, and there was an exercise where we were supposed to get out our pen and paper and ask questions. We turned to each other and decided to skip the exercise. Instead, we made introductions and realized we were running similar digital agencies. We had this amazing conversation about how it is to work in this space and run an agency, challenges with growth, etc. We ended up making that connection just by happenstance, but have kept in touch and are talking about working together. I have heard many such stories about serendipitous connections.