Austin's unique "BE"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Next Scene Lab Meeting on 12/08

Come join us for the next SceneLab on Wednesday, December 8th. We want to connect with you and hear how your scene stewardship, using the Austin Equation model, has been progressing.

SceneLabs are the gathering point and discussion area for people actively engaged in, or wishing to be actively engaged in, mapping and stewarding Austin's vibrant creative scenes applying the Austin Equation model (Experience + Community = Scene).

We will be speaking with
Charles Knickerbocker and Jon Lebkowsky, two people who have rich experience growing grassroots communities from scratch, locating stakeholders and encouraging participation. Specifically we will be talking with them about the "Community" part of the equation and the lessons they have learned.

As with previous SceneLabs, we will have the opportunity to discuss how and whether our emerging process of cultivating, documenting, and stewarding scenes "maps" onto their pragmatic experience of engaging individuals to form a community.

  • 5 - 5:15 Connect/meet/chat
  • 5:15 - 6:20 Intros and “Keynote” segment and group-wide discussion
  • 6:20 - 6:50 Scene steward status reports (mapping, convening, collaboration requests, etc.)
  • 6:50 - 7:00 Housekeeping & next steps
  • 7:00 Adjourn for follow-up social time at separate venue

Potluck beverages: We'll have a few drinks available, but please feel free to bring your favorite beer/wine/other and share.

Charles Knickerbocker has over 20 years of experience as a professional community organizer and political campaign staffer: campus strike leader in high school and college; Movement for Economic Justice; ACORN (at its beginning, when it was Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now); Consumers Congress; Industrial Areas Foundation; and city, state and national political campaigns.

Jon Lebkowsky managed Wireless Future, a year-long economic development project via the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas towards catalyzing the wireless business scene in Austin, bringing wireless companies and other stakeholders together and thereby actually creating a robust wireless scene. He was also an instigator with Rich MacKinnon of Austin Wireless City, a project to promote wifi in venues across Austin. Jon leveraged the synergies of the two projects in his scene-building activities. Currently, Jon is a web strategist, developer, and freelance project manager through Polycot Associates, Chief Digital Officer for the events company Plutopia Productions, and writes about culture and technology at his blog and various other publications. More information in Jon's longer bio and in the Jon Lebkowsky article at Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

September 28th SceneLab Recap

At our September SceneLab, we visited with Blake Shanley of The East Village, and Shea Little of the East Austin Studio Tour (EAST) to visit about how their rich experience in real world scene stewardship maps onto the Austin Equation model.

Blake Shanley has been working to develop and galvanize the changing commercial and cultural scene that surrounds the East End Cultural Heritage District, and has been responsible for creating events such as East End Fourth Fridays, that have generated renewed interest and excitement around the East 11th Street district. Blake shared that early on she fell well in love with the history of the area, which is storied and rich, and has its origins in segregation, and its glory in community and music.

Shea Little saw a problem and built a solution. The East Side was populated with artists, but there was little that showcased their work to Austin. So he built EAST, now in its ninth year. Annually, this event creates a dynamic art show in studios that spans styles, media, and many square miles.

During our conversation, we dug into how they defined and identified stakeholders and leaders in their scene, how they have convened those participants together online and off to generate collaboration, how they have evangelized their respective scenes to the broader Austin community, and their central challenges. The SceneLab was fortunate to have these two visit and share their expertise and experiences.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Proof is in the Pudding

Over the past two years we have been slowly watching the model unfold – testing its validity against a wide variety of audiences and circumstances and allowing it to evolve as appropriate. But a shift has occurred that is noteworthy in the lifecycle of the project – a shift away from theory and into practice. At some point the timer on the cosmic oven buzzed, indicating the model was done. Because suddenly we’re receiving requests for active intervention and also watching the model in action. Three immediate examples come to mind - one non-profit, one corporate, and one municipal.

The Austin Creative Alliance recently asked us to help operationalize their new charter by explicitly mapping and stewarding several targeted creative “scenes.” We’ll be helping to identify, train and guide multiple scene stewards who will undertake the ATXequation process of map/convene/evangelize/constitutionalize – in an attempt to help the various creative communities get the lay of their own land, as well as identify the gaps, leverage points and opportunities for greater collaboration. It’s an ambitious project that will both assist the Alliance and provide concrete case studies for the ATXequation over time. Large scale, city-wide application across multiple scenes – with dedicated resources and measurability. Sweet.

After a recent presentation about the scene mapping process as a non-traditional method of community leadership, we were approached by a local high tech executive in attendance. She believes the model to be of potential value within her own enterprise. Her take is that the ATXequation concept of Experience + Community = Scene has applicability in an organizational development context. What if a business unit could use the model to examine it’s practices and evaluate the unique experiences that it does or does not create for it’s clients or customers? And what if the various departments could, much like given “communities,” map out the key individuals, events and organizations that help to sustain them – and then, you get it – aggregate those things in a way that gets people out of their silo mentality so they can see and take action on the themes across the set? That the model has business application as well as at large is especially appealing to us. Why didn't we think of that??

And at a city administration level, Austin’s new and first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens was recently welcomed into her role at a City Hall reception hosted in part by Sustainability Scene-mapper Brandi Clark. In a brilliant stroke of convene/evangelize, Brandi used her Sustainability scene map as a center point for conversation at the reception – inviting attendees to not only view but contribute to the map itself right there on site. It was a perfect application of the mapping process and exercise – utilizing the map as icebreaker, orientation device and tool for advancing the collaborative good of the scene as a whole.

These three highly varied examples of applicability are exciting to us, and combined with the wild success of the Entrepreneurship scene that Bijoy is so steadily stewarding, offer significant opportunity for immediate challenge, research and most importantly at this stage – tangible results. The model’s baked. Time to serve it up and see if those who partake come back for more. Keep your fingers crossed. And we’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Evangelizing the Entrepreneur Scene

I've been sharing the Austin Entrepreneur Scene around town and will be doing so again at public events in November:

1. WILCO Entrepreneur Community (11/11)
2. Metropolitan Breakfast Club: (11/17)

I will also sharing the scene in other forums:

1. Leadership Austin Experience (11/9)
2. National Black MBA Conference (11/12)

A couple of key insights have emerged from the process:
  1. Every scene needs a story/narrative in order to evangelize it effectively
  2. The narrative emerges from mapping and convening the scene!
The #ATXentScene continues to serve as a fantastic testing ground for scene stewardship. We'll have more to report by the end of the year!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Next Scene Lab Meeting on 9/28

The next Scene Lab Meeting is this Tuesday, 5-7pm at Leadership Austin.

We will hear from Blake Shanley and Shea Little. Blake has stewarded the 11th St Scene in her role at the East Village, while Shea has stewarded the Art Scene through East Austin Studio Tour (EAST).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How To Make A Scene

Stewards of more than 15 different Austin scenes are actively engaged in the ATXequation. We thought we'd let you in on what they're doing and why ... and please consider this an open invitation to join in anytime.

The purpose of “making a scene” is to facilitate cross-community collaboration that breaks down barriers and enables communication, resource sharing and innovation. When a scene truly becomes a scene, it is no longer perceived as (or perceives itself as) a collection of related communities, but as a nimble, decentralized collective with shared motives and goals.

The scene-making process is undertaken by “scene stewards” and their collaborators. Scene stewards are subject matter experts who have a desire to expand their awareness beyond their known communities and in so doing expand the awareness and capacity of others.

So what is the role of the Scene Steward?

To galvanize communities in loose affiliation with one another, in order to strengthen and create greater synergy and collaboration among them.

To coalesce the scene itself by elevating the perception of those involved from an individual or community mindset to the larger scene perspective/mentality.

To lead the process with the good of the whole in mind, keeping individual or business interests in the background. Personal gain will result from the process, but should not be the motivating force for engaging in the process.

Scene stewardship consists of methods and action to identify, describe, and develop a scene. Scene stewards loosely organize their activities in the following categories:

• Mapping
• Convening
• Evangelizing

Mapping: creating a visual representation of the scene, the organizations that make it up, influence it, the participants and stakeholders.

Consciously identify the known players and communities occupying the same “space.”

Seek out the history of the scene, to inform the current scenario.

Map the known entities and players as documentation of the collection and connections.

Use the ATXequation protocols and tools for mapping and data gathering to ensure consistency with others maps. Contact us for instructions and access.

Convening: calling scene participants together to communicate, nurture relationships. An event of cross pollination and relationship building.

Share the map with all stakeholders in one form or another. It is preferable to convene people as a group, or have small group discussions. Explain the overarching ATXequation initiative, and how mapping the scenes is an attempt to strengthen Austin by identifying opportunities to collaborate and synergize, and shifting our mentality to the “scene” perspective.

Identify gaps. Get feedback on what is missing and where the connections could or should be. Re-map based on feedback.

Get others engaged in the mapping discussion, and more. Decentralize when you are comfortable giving other people edit rights to the map. Allow it to grow and expand.

Stay connected with your stakeholders. Update them when the map gets updated. Invite them to periodically check in.

Evangelizing: Advocating the scene and its developments both to itself and to people and communities outside of the scene.

Scene stewards have the unique opportunity and challenge of “leading” this decentralized effort. A few thoughts on how to successfully take on that role:

As mentioned before, lead the process with the good of the whole in mind, keeping individual or business interests in the background. Personal gain will result from the process, but should not be the motivating force for engaging in the process. Decisions should be made by and on behalf of the scene itself, representing all constituents.

Keep a spirit of curiosity about the process. It is not a prescriptive process, but one of true innovation. Loosely guide and let the process emerge as you go. Use your intuition about when to intervene, and be prepared to “let go” a little more than you would in other endeavors.

Keep in mind this process may be foreign to some, even to yourself, as many of us are accustomed to a more centralized or “command and control” approach. Be prepared for pushback, factions, dropouts and informal fans and leaders to naturally emerge. Information about the stages of group development may help at this stage.

To help with information exchange, use as a central repository for blog-posts, links to articles, maps, etc. Mention @atxequation in your twitter feed or #atxequation when you are at an event that inspires you.

Create a loose system of communication with your stakeholders such as a google or yahoo group. Keep them posted on your efforts. Ask their suggestions and ideas, even if you don’t feel you need them. Always err on the side of inclusion.

Encourage others to document the results of your efforts, and keep your own documentation.
The proof in the pudding is the actual collaborations, new connections, innovations, friends and products that result from scene mapping and discovery.

Participate in the Scene Lab, online discussion and other events made available by the initiative overall. Scene Lab meetings and updates are communicated via twitter and the blog.

Stay in touch with other scene stewards, within and outside of the framework provided by the initiative overall. The true power is in the connection between the scenes, which is the next evolution of this work.

Have fun and give us feedback! This whole thing is a work in progress. We’re eager to hear about your adventures in the equation.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Converting Experience Into Expertise

As our Austin Equation community continues to pioneer the process for Scene Mapping and Stewarding, the Scene Lab meetings are being used to share lessons-learned to convert our experiences into expertise.

In the June 14th Scene Lab, we applied a variation of a fishbowl conversation to excavate experiences, knowledge and lessons from Brandi Clark Burton (Sustainability Scene Steward) and Bijoy Goswami (Entrepreneurship Scene Steward). In this format, a set of open-ended questions were posed to both, with the rest of the attending stewards and community members seated around them, and engaging in structured and broad dialog.

We discussed how each:
  • initially mapped their scene
  • collected feedback and critiques of their mapping work
  • convened discussion groups of scene participants
  • evangelizes for the mapping process and their scene
  • poses their 'elevator pitch' about their scene and the stewardship work
  • articulates their challenges and next steps
... and the discussion was unsurprisingly rich and enlightening. We've captured the conversation in notes and video and are distilling the shared lessons into collaborative documentation, which we will be sharing here and in the Google Group.

Coming soon:
  • Date for next Scene Lab
  • Google Group-shared documentation on suggested and required Scene Map data for mappers to collect
  • Google Group-shared documentation about talking points/elevator pitches distilled from Scene Lab discussions for getting started mapping your scene
  • Tweaks to this site to increase usability and clarity
As always, please send Robert Matney your queries, ideas, and feedback on the Scene Lab (rmatney AT g mail).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Evangelist Test

The best indication that a message is on target is when others articulate it better than you do! This has been happening a lot in the first 3 months of 2010 for the Equation.

In January, Bijoy gave a talk at Ignite Austin and GigaOm's Stacey Higginbotham posted a wonderful blogpost of the Equation highlighting the stewardship of Austin's Entrepreneur Scene.

In March, when Heather and Bijoy facilitated a SXSW Core Converation on "Austin, the Killer App," the participants (half visitors to Austin) beautifully articulated the equation with little guidance from us. Blogger Joey Martin captured the equation and applied it to the nonprofit world.

Brandi Clark, wrote in the Austin EcoNetwork's March newsletter about the importance of mapping the various scenes, including, of course, her Sustainability Scene Map.

And most recently, Barbara Kiviat of TIME wrote a cover story on Austin's unique ability to weather the economic downturn. While not explicitly stated, she perfectly described our high-functioning set of scenes, particularly Entrepreneurship. (with a mention of Bootstrap Austin on page 3!)

We'll keep looking out for awesome articulations of the Equation - and encourage you to answer the question: what is the Austin Equation to you? (And let us know so we can highlight it!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Locking & Loading the Equation

Late February marked the first meeting of the new ATX Scene Lab lead by Rob Matney. In the Lab, scene stewards and mappers gathered to set expectations and priorities for the year. The scene mapping process continues, with a few new additions to the list of scenes active within the project. Decisions are underway about common mapping tools, thanks to leadership by Charles Knickerbocker.

So far, March has been a big month for the Equation. Heather and Bijoy have been busy evangelizing, taking advantage of the amazing opportunities Austin makes possible. During the RISE conference for Entrepreneurs we chose to shift the emphasis of the presentation to focus first on the entrepreneurship scene, using the "Locate/Engage/Wow" sequence from our Bootstrap Experience model. The group was highly engaged, and we gathered a great deal of good feedback and insight. We're looking forward to a transcript of that workshop as the basis of the our first article.

Most fun so far in March has been our "Core Conversation" at the South by Southwest Interactive conference - aptly named "Why Austin is the Killer App," (#austinkillerapp). The conversation was an exciting opportunity to test the equation wtih a global audience. The focus was on impressions of Austin by native Austinites, first-time visitors, and those who have been back for more several times. These impressions served (as always) as an excellent backdrop to the conversation about what makes for great experiences, strong communities, and thriving, healthy scenes.

We know there is still a great deal to learn about Austin, and what makes it special. But after these latest two large scale opportunities to present the equation to new audiences, we believe that the equation itself - Experience + Community = Scene - has been consistently proven over time to the degree that we are ready to "lock it in." This is an exciting phase of this work for us, which will give rise to a new phase of documentation, now that the initial research phase of 18 months + feels complete.

Check out these fun SXSW interviews by Josh Baer of METV - click on Austin Equation to see ours!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ATXequation - plans for 2010

The Austin Equation initiative is in full swing for 2010 - we've been streamlining our plans, writing, reflecting and organizing for the year ahead. Here are some highlights:

Articulation and Evangelism

Bijoy's talk at Ignite Austin went well and we should have the video up shortly; this will serve as a good 5-minute introduction to ATXEquation. Watch this space for it!

Bijoy and Heather are spending the first 6 months of the year articulating the equation in a longer document, summing up what has been learned. We'll be sharing our progress (and soliciting feedback) as we go along. This blog will be used as process documentation as we go along.

Birth of the "Scene Lab"

The group formerly known as "Scene Mappers" is expanding its charter to Scene Stewardship, not just mapping. Anyone interested in stewarding a particular scene (mapping, convening, evangelizing, etc.) is welcome. As such, we've changed the name to "ATX Scene Lab." The "lab" also reflects that this will be a place - both online and in meetings - for self-directed volunteers who are interested in stewarding scenes to share their progress and practices. It will not be a forum for discussion of the details or theory behind the ATXequation model. Instead, in the Lab we'll roll up our sleeves and discuss tangible examples of scene-building on the ground. Scene stewards will be responsible for progress (or lack thereof!) of their scenes.

Robert Matney will be facilitating the Scene Lab meetings and online discussion on this Google Group for 2010. The next meeting is February 25 @ 5pm at the Leadership Austin offices - 1609 Shoal Creek, Suite 202. Mark your calendars! Lab meetings will occur on a quarterly basis. Please send Robert your queries, ideas & feedback at rmatney AT gmail.

Update - The Entrepreneurship Scene

In 2010, Bijoy is stewarding the Entrepreneurship Scene. We have regular meetings scheduled for the leaders in the scene. Heather and Bijoy shared ATXequation with this group at the January meeting. Bootstrap Austin is spending all of February on ATXequation and educating its members about the Entrepreneurship Scene. Every day a tweet goes out from @bootstrapaustin (starting yesterday) and the February 8 Bootstrap Austin Meeting is dedicated to ATXEQ and the Entrepreneurship Scene Map. Please feel free to attend this meeting and/or follow @bootstrapaustin to see how we are doing this. March is our "scene- level" experience - - and this will be great way to bring the entire entrepreneurship Scene together and put it on display for the Austin community and beyond.

We're looking forward to continuing to make progress on ATXequation in 2010! Many thanks to all the contributors, collaborators and interested parties who continue to show interest in this work. If you have particular feedback on any of the above and/or thoughts about your specific involvement with the initiative, please get in touch directly with Heather, Rob or Bijoy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Austin's Civic Identity

The Austin Equation is on a quest to identify Austin's civic identity, to locate which unique qualities make Austin what it is. Our path has been to start with facts, collecting data about and mapping the constituent parts of Austin's creative sub-cultures.

Some observations:
  • Austin places high value on/bias for idiosyncratic/DIY organizations as well as collaborative organizations (as opposed to personality driven)
  • Austin has a strong bias against what is perceived to be a power structure
These biases yield unique fertile ground for startups in every discipline.

What are your observations?