Social media has had a bad press recently, so it is more important than ever to accentuate the upside and its role as a force for good, connecting and bringing people together, being a forum for new social innovation and positive news. Here are some illustrated examples and some opportunities for Campfire too.
1 New inspiration : new people, new thinking
We have big changes we need to make. Only though dreaming, reimagining and learning how to express these ideas will they become reality. How do we then disseminate these visions? Traditionally, we might have stood on a soapbox and hoped that passers by listened. Now we are blessed to have social media as a platform for instant and widespread communication.
Example 1 : A friend I have so far only met online.
I have lost count of the number of times already this year that I have said to myself "I have no idea why I haven't met this person before. Their ideas are so in synergy with mine and many others around me yet I was unaware of that way of looking at things". I said to one such person last night, who I only really met (online) last week "I almost feel like punching the air when you articulate your ideas." I decided to contact them as I particularly liked the words they had used to respond to a series of photos I had posted online. Since then the conversations we had have had have already brought me inspiration, joy, enlightenment and motivation.
Example 2 : How I came to move to Frome.
I was living in camper van for most of 2017. In the early months when I was in and around Lewes I noticed an event posted on social media organised by 38 Degrees in the town. It was a talk and early example of a Peoples Assembly facilitated by Peter MacFadyen, architect of Frome's independent politics movement and author of the manual describing how to do it yourself, 'Flatpack Democracy'. I loved the inspiration and engagement of evening and went up and talked to Peter afterwards. We became friends and after a couple of Zoom chats with him and his wife Annabelle, they offered to host a Frome event for Campfire, which became the Campfire Conversations evening which opened Rye Bakery in town. As I arrived in my camper on a glorious sunny late May evening I think I had already decided that I could quite happily live in Frome, surrounded by history, wonderful countryside and progressive ideas and politics, not to mention the friends I made that night. A house came upo quicker than I expected and within a couple of months, I was on my way to opening anew chapter of my life - in a new town.
2 Connecting and enabling collaboration - Projects
Connections are all important. I love reading about other people's passions and what fires them up. The Projects section is a space we are building on Campfire where we can be inspired by others' projects and request to link up with them, either though becoming a follower of their work / ideas or by joining with them in co-creation (if it's a new idea) or collaboration (if it already exists).
Example 1 : The formation of Campfire's mentorship scheme. Once we had announced our 'Fire in the Belly' crowdfund initiative in spring 2019, our members immediately stepped up and started offering various 'perks' for the crowdfund, from podcasting tutorials and music biz courses to fermentation and raw chocolate making workshops. Not all the events were successful but it showed a generous coming together around a community cause and also kicked off potential for a Campfire Mentorship Circle.
3 New Tools : Building and pooling resources for change
The change is already here. We need facts and figures, new philosophical ideas, new world thinking at our fingertips. Where do put those links in one place? One option for acquiring knowledge is a Google / Ecosia / Duck Duck Go search. Results are random and in some cases weighted by commercial considerations. Another option is Campfire Projects which have potential to become spaces containing the materials we need to access quickly and efficiently. They also conduits to collaboration (see point 2)
Example 1 : Building Frome resources. When I first moved to Frome, one way of learning about the town and its extraordinary initiatives was to start compiling my own compendium with onward links. This is where I am at now (needs updating)
Example 2 : Book club reading lists. Most ideas that change the world come through books or essays. This recent example, the Frome Beacon Book Club reading list shows how we can fill a single page with links to books, for onward browsing, research and learning.
4 New consciousness : Open hearts, shared vulnerability, inspiration and guidance
The early Big Chill forum set the high watermark as an example of community coming together in mutual support, often being incredibly candid about their lives, their worries, their relationships, job dilemmas and much more. Campfire is starting to build an equally useful support and mentorship framework. At Campout 2019 we saw an extraordinary opening up over five days as our members (many of them new to Campfire) started to connect with and trust those around them and find the common links. The cathartic and healing effect of the event as it unfolded was evidence of the huge need for people to be able to find a safe space to do this. Campfire online can continue to provide that safe space, but instantaneously and cutting across geographical borders, time zones and other barriers that may be there.
5 New directions : Inspiring and being inspired
All around us are people with unique stories, unique gifts, unique takes on life. Many are people we haven't yet met. We can inspire and support each other and keep the conversations going via social media.
Example 1 : I didn't know @Beth Salmon this time last year. She spotted Campout on social media and sent me a very polite and interesting email application for a bursary ticket as she has just returned from Africa after an abusive relationship, was broke and wanted to come with her three sons. Beth came to Frome, popped up every night around the campfire, guitar in hand and enchanted us with her songs about life, love, relationships, passion and mosquitos. I fell in love with her music and approached her about a collaboration and she then asked me to manage her. We're just getting started with this release.
Example 2 : I didn't know @Sarah Jewell (SelgarsMill)@ this time last year. We were introduced via a mutual friend and I was inspired by what she had posted on social media and I think she was inspired by our social network and how it was represented online. We then met and clicked and the Campfire Trailblazer weekend concept was born. We have staged two so far, and are planning the next chapter.
Example 3 : Campfire Wellbeing Circle. I met two wonderful people last year for the first time - poet and West Wales resident @Steve Thorp (at a Campfire Trailblazers weekend) and RSA fellow and social activist @michelle preston (simplyhappy)@ at a Bristol talk I made organised by the RSA, which I had seen posted on social media. They are both now collaborating on a new Wellbeing Circle Team for Campfire, an idea that hadn't even been dreamed up a year ago.
6 New media : An alternative to vested interests
There is a case for thinking that there is no alternative the oligarch-owned, outmoded mainstream media. That isn't the case and more than ever we need to start getting active in finding the stories that matter, putting hope and discovery before fear, uniting rather than dividing and calling out fake news when it appears.
Campfire plans to explore potential links with journalism courses where we can offer engagement with the Campfire site for practical, hands-on experience of news creation on a real live social network.
We invite you to join us as a citizen journalist to help shape a new narrative by contributing articles to the site, which can then be fed to to the site magazine. We encourage you to write, make films or podcasts and to find your own voice as a citizen broadcaster. The change starts with us.
Imagine an editorial code with kindness, caring, co-operating and community building at its core.
7 New universe : An ecosystem that works for all, individually and collectively
Campfire enables you to portfolio your own work, hobbies, writings, Projects, whatever you wish to place in your own shop window. We are also looking at new ways of graphically representing our own individual and community-based world. How we keep in touch with others and honour our friends and collaborators within our own unique ecosystem is central to the Campfire ethos.
We all "have a life" but what Campfire and positive social media can do is enable us to live the life within a wider ecosystem that will help each one of us to become recognised and respected in the community for our own individual creativity and gifts.
Campfire steering group member @Steve Thorp puts it this way
Example 1 : A vision for how we can benefit from the Campfire ecosystem "One of the things I think is the amazing potential in Campfire (and what I hoped for when I joined), is that it is a place where 'my 'life – my work, activism, concerns, doings and writings – can sit and fit easily into this ecosystem. If what I was doing with and in CC wasn't 'instead of' or 'in addition to' other things in my life, but complementary to them, then it would be working for me...Whatever we do has to be sustainable for each of us as individuals as well as the organisation/ecosystem we develop... Diversity, activities, projects etc will come if the ecosystem works"
Example 2 : Benefitting financially from the Campfire ecosystem @Michelle Spriddell (SoGoMichelle)@ nails it here "If you are looking to earn some money or already have a business - being involved in this environment puts you in touch with people that get to know and trust you - people you would like to be around - therefore your added reward which requires no extra work to the above socialising aspect - is that the people you mix with are more likely to hire you, work with you or recommend you - they are also people you genuinely would be happy working for - win/win, no selling involved."
8 New Co-operative models : Karma benefits all, not just a few shareholders
Facebook's model is essentially surveillance capitalism - taking advantage of our engagement as the data which they sell on to advertisers. Campfire is ad-free and algorithm-free, it is about building community and empowering its members through that community, both online and offline. The original Karma scheme vision is still being developed but will aim to recognise the engagement, presence and unique skills of each of our members in the community and reward them via an actual Karma payout, a cash distribution once the community is in an abundant situation.
9 New groups : Beacons can empower us individually and collectively at local community level
Many people are agreed that we don't have time for politicians (or confidence in them) to be the ones making the changes that are so badly needed - for starters, waking up to the climate emergency and acting urgently on changing the economic systems that create it - so we need to get on with doing it ourselves. The change is us and we need to be looking at working together to identify what the issues are, how we are going to tackle them, what we need to do to be in service to the local community and to learn how our unique and complimentary skills can not only work for the good of all but can often create unexpected and quite magical and / or fun experiences on the way.
Beacons can act as hubs, encouraging members to offer editorial, become editors of our site magazine, The Flame, as it will be rebranded in spring 2020.
Example 1 : How the Brighton Beacon was set up @Mads Ryle (Mads)@ writes about the inspiration and processes involved in setting up a Campfire Beacon
10 New World : Social change though interaction
Through online exchanges we can gain consensus and validation around ideas, but also respectfully challenge too. Unlike Facebook, our values and principles form the core of how we talk to each other, with respectful kindness at the centre. Putting kindness centre stage was brilliantly articulated than by Theo Simon in his inspiring talk at Campout 2019.
Interaction can be highly targetted through our tagging system. If you're interested in touching base with other members whose interests are art, festivals and gigs, sexuality or nature (or any one of our 'key interest' tags you select when you sign up, simply do a search by clicking on the tag that will appear on your own profile.
Example 1 : Access to like-minded members and key interests I can find all content on the site that has been tagged with, for example, 'spirituality' here and a second click of the tab 'users' will locate all members who have selected spirituality. You can then browse their profiles, look at their writing and Projects and so on.
Example 2 : Campaigns Campfire is able to feed into and support some key campaigns such as getting our government to recognise and act upon the climate emergency through citizen journalism, films and events that work closely in synergy with the social network.
Campfire is actively involved with promoting peoples assemblies and attended and reported on Parliament's first such event. Without social media reporting this, the events and idea of this peoples assembly would not have received media coverage.
We also invited Brett Hennig, who is leading the move towards sortition (a bedrock of peoples assemblies) as a new viable way of doing direct democracy. We are working for positicve social change and direct democracy without affiliations to any political party.
11 New relationships : Love is in the air
I know of at least 30 marriages (that I know of, at least) that came out of The Big Chill community via our early forums (and then subsequent meetings at the events). That heady combination of social network and face-to-face meetings at events can be incredibly powerful - and life changing. I'm not suggesting that Campfire is a dating site, but it's a great way to meet new, often like-minded people, without the instantaneous swipe left or right instant-gratification mentality of a Tinder.
12 New networks : Linking community social networks
Campfire is in the process of upgrading its social networking software and aims to enable the Campfire Ecosystem, an interlinked network connecting those organisations doing the important work. It is a potentially significant revenue source too.
The Campfire Flame can potentially carry feeds from throughout the Ecosystem, curating the best from the new consciousness activists endorsed by Campfire.
and two more reasons (taken from our Facebook group)
Hilary Patchwork Platt "Because in numbers there is power! if you can connect people in a positive way you can do untold good!"
and @Dan Knowlson "Social media that is truly that, social, is a wonderful thing. It enables connection, sharing, learning, support with people around the world. Through the positive side of social media I'm in easy contact with friends and family around the world. I have learned and continue to learn so much that has changed my life for the better."
We're in this together.
Come and join us!
Last word from our patron...