Sunday, November 21, 2004

Getting close

I've created a new kind of online tool, for building community ... and it's almost ready for the world.

I tell people that I'm trying to take care of two tightly interwoven problems with community projects, which keep them from being the potent force for good they should be.

The first problem is community support. the second is effective serving of the community.

The solution in both cases is transparency (so people know what you're doing, and so can support it) and ownership (so the community can shape what is being done in their interest). To me, this needs to be done in a directly democratic manner, which is terribly uncommon these days. But it has to be coherent, and mutually supportive, or it can be a mess.

Jaimes, dancing above with Rebecca this Thursday, is about to use the tool to organize a tango center in seattle, with his colleagues Shorey & Kathryn. I'm about to use it to run the Tango Center here in Eugene. We're getting very close, I believe, to a revolutionary moment, when communities and community organizers will finally be able to easily do what they need to, to make a better world. It's exciting, so I have to get back to work. I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Doing good

Then there's the idea that Tango itself promotes social good -- patience, tolerance, community and connection. It's all about connection -- to the music, to the floor of people, to the people off the floor, to your partner, to the earth. It's an astoundingly holistic exercise.

We knew this, when Olga & I started the Tango Center as a community project. The reality of the project, impressed Tango instructors from around the world, who had not seen this exact kind of thing before. But Tango instructors, although generally a missionary bunch, are not really social activists. Well, some are.

One of them is the extraordinary young dancer above, Jaimes, who feels he should be doing more with his tango to help the world. He's coming to visit in a few days, and we're going to try to put together a plan to create non-profit Tango Centers around the planet.

I'm always very charged by people who want to do good. In this case, Jaimes, on a moment-by-moment basis, does bring quite a lot of joy to people. But the normal "gig" for a teacher at his level is to travel around and spend a few days somewhere, teaching some sequestered dancers, who are rather private and mostly dance at house parties. He'd far prefer to spend a month in a community, and help them build a public dance center dedicated to Tango. I'm putting together an online toolkit, and a unique web operation, which I'll talk about later.

The Tango Center

The Tango Center is a non-profit community center dedicated to the music and dance of Argentine Tango.

It's also an experiment in developing special-purpose community centers (versus general purpose ones).

It's also an experiment in community-driven urban revitalization (versus commercial or state-driven urban redevelopment).

It's also an experiment in rebuilding community. It's also fun.

That's a lot of experiments ... we'll publish results soon. In the meantime, here are some stories.