Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Potluck Action Network (PAN)

A friend of mine -- OK, OK, a "weak tie," really, since this is a person I consider a friend but haven't much seen in over a year even though he lives right here in Madison, and we don't have much of a shared history since we were ourselves connected by a mutual friend (who is now in Nepal, OK, can I stop now?) -- invited me to a thing he helped start: the "Potluck Action Network". (For those of you keeping count, my friend is also the one who started "Nader Trader" online in 2000, but that's another story.) Anyway, PAN could be an interesting example of the different notions of "network" we've been discussing in class. From the Potluck Action Network web site we find this explanation:

In the Potluck Action Network, we hold potlucks. A lot of them.  And we do things-- political actions-- before, during, and after those potlucks. We read up on issues, commit to doing one thing about some issue per month, meet up with friends at potlucks to tell what we've done, and strategize about the future.  Through the network we share stories of our work and fun, and connect with other like-minded people working on the same topics across the country.  [...]

Why a 'Network'? The internet has now developed to a point where nearly everyone has web access, so a web-driven network makes sense to link potluck groups across geographic borders and interest. Much more powerful than a phone tree or a set of index cards, the web allows us to retrieve the stored wisdom of thousands of like-minded people. We can connect to people who we'd never have known of just a few years ago. It's amazing, really. Yet at the same time, we all still have that basic human need of face-to-face communication. So we have potlucks, actions, and a network.

What are the goals of the Potluck Action Network? There are short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals of the Potluck Action Network. In the short term, we will unite progressive individuals from around the country within their communities. In the medium term, we want our members to gain contacts, confidence, and experience that will lead them to make increasingly effective impacts within their communities and beyond. In the long term, we want to provide a steady structure with a deep memory where the next generations of progressive leaders can learn, through personal experience, how to organize within a community, how to harness political energies to make things happen, and how to have fun while making a real, positive impact. How long is the long term? We envision that each potluck group may last 10 years or longer. During this time, members may come and go. New groups may spin off, and that's a great success. We have tried hard to develop a structure and approach that makes people want to keep coming back, for many years. [...]

Will the Potluck Action Network drown me with emails? No. The network does not plan to send emergency action alerts. Many other organizations do this quite well, and we do encourage our members to stay active in those more centralized groups. Our focus is slow, steady, and widespread effort and progress. [...]

Can anyone join? Frankly, no. Members of the vast right-wing conspiracy are not welcome. Don't they have enough outlets? However, recovering members of the right wing are strongly encouraged to join!

Geography-informed comments?

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