Grid Organizing / by Nate Westheimer

This post is follow-up to my post "Power Alley," and is in regards to my candidacy for New York Tech Meetup Organizer and what can be done to advance the NY tech community.

With the New York Tech Meetup, I propose creating a board of egoless community organizers, each dedicated to evangelizing and coodinating on behalf of a self-identifed constituency of the broader NY tech community.

I'd call on people like Whitney Hess to be the inward and outward evangelist of the design, UI & UX communities; I'd call on folks like Charlie O'Donnell to be the inward and outward evangelist of the University communities; I'd call on folks like Howard Greenstein to be the inward and outward evangelist of the NGO community; and, most importantly, I'd call on you to step up and become the inward and outward evangelist of whichever community you see fit, working with other community organizers to advance the New York tech community by facilitating coordination and collaboration among the Alley's dozens of amazing and already existing tech organizations and communities.

This is why:

After I posted about the importance of coordination within the grid of existing organizations and constituencies in an ecosystem, my dad replied with this note:

I do like your notion of comparing a coordinator role to a power grid.

The power grid makes connections in smart seamless ways. In a human network, with a good "coordinator" (like in an efficient power grid), power sources and power consumers can quickly and seamlessly switch roles.

...

Also, the grid acts like a battery. One of the big obstacles to alternative, super-local power generation has been storage. Battery technology is way behind generation technology.

Enter the grid. While the grid does employ some storage technologies (using pumped water, etc.), most often excess capacity is exchanged for surge demand and the whole thing works out. It does rely on some super mega gimungus generators that can respond to demand. But it allows for smaller generators to simple supply when they can.

Wow.

While his entire note got me thinking, one notion particular has had my mind spinning over the last few days: The idea that "power sources and power consumers can quickly and seamlessly switch roles."

Allowing roles to be flexible is the stuff of strong communities and the focus of good community organizers. When the agenda of an organization is solely on getting work done -- rather than building personal or institutional legacy, which is only a byproduct, not a facilitator of getting work done -- then building flexible communities makes as much sense as building flexible power grids, because you care less about who's who, and more about what's getting done.

But so flexible that roles among power generators and power consumers -- leaders and followers -- can be reversed?! "Heresy!"

No, not heresy. This is exactly how we should run our organizations.

This is how I'll run the New York Tech Meetup.

(For more information, and to endorse me, please see my Platform page.)