Earlier this evening we wrapped up the kickoff meeting of the Public Media Collaborative (no website yet, private wiki coming, Facebook group here) at TechSoup in San Francisco. The idea, spawned by Susan Mernit, initially drew eight of us (folks like David Cohn, Margaret Rosas, Joyce Kim) to a restaurant last month to plan a gathering around collaboration to promote community building at the local level with social media and technology.
It reminded me in some ways of the citizens media summit I organized in 2005 that drew 40 people to the offices of the Internet Archive a couple of miles from here — with some important differences: Where the summit drew public-spirited citizen publishers from around the country who were running Web publications, this gathering represented a much broader slice of local participants: social media entrepreneurs, nonprofit employees, political activists, journalists, video producers, philanthropists and others.
Some 40 people turned out for this inaugural meeting. Amy Gahran live-tweeted the event on Twitter (hash tag: #PMC). Among those who turned out: David Siskin, Dave Toole, Chris Heuer, Julian Darley, Brian Shields, Austin Heap, Jen Myronuk, Marnie Webb, Amy Gahran, Joyce Kim, Kristy Graves, George Kelly, Raines Cohen, Heather Gold, Richard Landry, David Cohn, Adina Levin, Michael Stoll, Margaret Rosas and many others.
In short, we're a monthly meet-up and working group whose mission is to use media & technology to build democracy and educate and empower local and virtual communities. A few highlights:
Susan Mernit told the gathering she was "struck by how content and video have become more accessible" to users, and that the impetus to engage with media cuts across different communities, like journalists and advocates of public housing. Public Media Collaborative's goal is not to do one big thing but rather to support more "episodic and bursty" efforts based on efforts and interests that overlap.
Someone suggested that the group's purpose was to "create a solutions ecology," a shorthand description that I like a lot. I mentioned that it seemed that the group's purpose, in essence, was to connect the connectors, though Richard Landry pointed out that we can also serve a bridging function in reaching out to organizations that need guidance in the social media sphere.
After a lot of folks' input, I suggested that the organization seemed to be circling in on three main components:
• As a digital salon, with monthly meetings that center on a particular topic or cause, with smaller breakout groups to support each other's efforts.
• As a cross-disciplinary support group with a communication channel to clue in each other about timely efforts.
• As a resource center with a pooled knowledge base and ongoing workshops/bootcamps around social and public media. (More on this soon, as the launch of Socialbrite approaches.) Or, as Joyce Kim says, the Collaborative can serve "as a resource bank where we can build upon each other's expertise to help on our own community projects."
If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in joining up, drop me a line or just pop into our next gathering.