This weekend I participated in an event that provided nothing less than a glimpse into a more perfect world. For seventy-two hours, eighty great minds left behind their worldly responsibilities as designers, entrepreneurs, marketing consultants, and students and ventured deep into the Mendocino Woodlands, where cellphone signals and internet access fail to penetrate.
For those seventy-two hours, we cooked together, ate together, learned together, and played together. We discovered that amongst the powerful corporations and influential nonprofit representatives, we also had artists, athletes (somewhere in this world, egg toss is considered a sport), musicians, and writers. Most importantly, we dreamed together.
The trees overhead sheltered us from more than sun and distraction. They protected us from the cold separation of society. Here we were all instant best friends, supportive and curious about our brethren. The web of community held back the doubt and insecurities that assail us every day and let loose the potential of eighty truly great and green minds.
The organizers, an almost familial group from Net Impact, IDSA, and the Young Women Social Entrepreneurs recruited the minds, made sure they were well fed, and fostered an amazing environment of communal involvement. Beyond that, this was truly an Unconference. Discussion topics were created on-site by passionate pleas and popular vote. Groups were self-moderated, and participants freely flowed in and out of them, following the two-feet rule.
Can anything really come from such an unstructured format? I found the discussions I was involved in to be very engaging and inspiring. They often took a surprising turn - one of the advantages of tossing structure out the window - but stayed focused on the overall theme of sustainability. A few direct actions may result from this unconference, but the main benefit will undoubtedly be the creation of "mastermind" groups, support groups that will continue to inspire, promote new thinking, and launch projects long after the summit has passed.Plato believed that every object that we see is merely a shadow of a true Form which, though abstract in nature, is more real than the objects which mimic it. This weekend we imagined a more perfect world, and for those seventy-two hours, it was more visceral and more real than the blank reality that surrounds us today. In daring to believe in that more-perfect future, I discovered the real me, one not bound by self-doubt, societal expectations and financial statements. In the Mendocino redwoods, I regained the courage to dream, and I can only hope that every morning when I look in the mirror, the real me will look back.