Saturday, October 04, 2008

advocacy kicked around at Midtown Brews last Thursday

This past Thursday, October 2nd, we had a productive confabulation in our Midtown Brews monthly, this one being held at Insivia in The Tower Press Building, site of some of our original Meet.The.Bloggers productions. The topic this time was "advocacy." Betsey Merkel asked that I share some of my notes, so here they are:

Michael DeAloia, Tech Tsar, in a blinding flash of genius or a stroke of blind genius, kicked off the proceedings even though he was not there--he had Betsey, who was in charge of the kickoff, read his regrets statement into the record, which is both in video and podcast format. This was the second anniversary of Midtown Brews, and Michael fondly recalls how he kicked things off a scant two years ago, and how his love of tech and dialogue and connectivity and beer seem to have informed all events since.

Dennis Coughlin of I-Open and formerly of REI at CWRU (how about them abbreviations...) pointed out that I-Open is the parent of Midtown Brews and of Midtown Mornings and that, "like a parent, you can't really tell anyone what to do." Like Topsy, Brews just grew.

Gloria Ferris was moderator, and spoke to the reason why she was replacing George Nemeth as moderator, this time around, so that George could participate more fully in a discussion that is close to his heart. He spoke briefly of Brewed Fresh Daily being his main claim to fame thus far, and how it has led him down the paths of exploring social networking, as it is termed today.

Next up were John Eckerle, the Realtor, and he is also the relator of how we can all be connected on various levels. Then there was Ken Warren of the Lakewood Public Library and Jim O'Brien of The Lakewood OBSERVER, a print takeoff connecting the blogosphere with the rest of the more traditional print media, and advertising, and and the great expanse of  never-connected masses who still have no computers or PDAs, the heavenly fellowship of those who do not yet Twitter. John and Ken and Jim promote the OBSERVER as a bridge and a financially sustainable means of promoting community organizing here and now, until everybody has a laptop, a PDA, a Kindle, or a fancy cellphone.

Marnie Urso spoke of Audubon Ohio; Ed Hauser spoke of broken, broken, completely broken public processes and his sometimes lonely roles of advocate, warrior, and defender of the public interest, and how the Port Authority has failed to serve those same interests on a number of occasions, in contravention of their mission. Marc Lefkowitz of Green City, Blue Lake, and formerly of The Hotel Bruce, mentioned the journalistic tools he has and the writerly roots we all have; he gave an brief idea of how he came to focus on sustainability. Michael Lehto of the CIA faculty introduced himself to the group, and about this time my notes start getting more sparse as I began listening more and writing less. The content is good--you need to listen and watch the content.

Sean Gesing, Mike's son, introduced himself as a college student from Lorain Community College; Bill MacDermott, whose energy-efficient house is on display today, told us of his 1970s persona and Spaceship Earth following on the heels of the ruination of the planet, ending with the quote, "I would rather have been wrong." Stephanie Spear spoke about her work with EARTHWATCH OHIO; Eric Purcell revealed that he was in fact "a little worker bee" of Andy Halko's at the Insivia hive; Jim Herget, son of the '60s gave a quick and incisive preview of his current ACT III project, which involves post-age-60 repurposing and demarginalizing of the leading edge of the boomer wave; his friend Julie Morris told of her CIA and CWRU roots.

Jeff Schuler pointed up the fact that he is an absorbing and integrating influence, in that he is somewhat a son of the '60s, when he was minus 15 years old, a traveler on Spaceship Earth as an embryo, and a potential fixer of Ed Hauser's things that are broken, anytime at all. Susan Miller related to being visionary, arts-based, feeling older than Herget, and seeing how the life phases are working through as she soldiers on with RealNEO. Rich Brhel told of the library connections of Chancellor University (formerly Dyke College) with the advocacy process and reinforced the commonality he shared with Ken Warren and MidTown's dialogues these past few years. Laura Wright of Insivia spoke eloquently to the need we all have for good design and beauty (and by extension, goodness and truth); Evan Wilhelms talked of Creative Commons and Natural Resources Commons; Toni Chanakas related design to community to BFD (Brewed Fresh Daily).

As I careened into my second page of notes, Bruce Lessig spoke simply of simple ways to make simple things; his friend Susie mentioned that Shaklee approaches were noted for their simplicity as well; Lee Chilcote talked about his work with Keith Brown's Progressive Urban Realty and the Cleveland Colectivo advocacy group; Mary K. Holmes told about her work with the Farmers Market over at Shaker Square and wondered how George Nemeth and others might show her how to kick off and drive traffic to a new enterprise, Scott Sanders of The Earth Day Coalition made a leap from sustainable design to the critical distinction of talking now of "regenerative design." Susan Altshuler of I-Open gave a jam-packed explanation of "neutral open spaces" as well as the bestowing of hope; legacy building and leaving our children better off rounded out her concerns.

Our Answer to Miss Brooks, MaryBeth Mathews, reminded us of the 54,000 students in the Cleveland Public Schools and her perspective as a teacher in that system for nearly 30 years, and a blogger about the kids for the past few years; her reminder, "It's about the kids," should resonate every time we hear about the self-dealing machinations of a crippled board appointed by a third-world politicians with regard to a grossly mismanaged school system (my words, not hers--she's a nice lady and still works there). Peter McDermott of Entrepreneurs for Sustainability used phrases like "advocate for what's possible," "this new economy," "purpose-driven network," and "local food I-can't-read-my own-writing."'s Valdis Krebs told us about human networks and mentioned how E4S and June Holley are so good at connecting others, seeing where the nodes are, and aren't. John McGovern of The Earthday Coalition told us about working with fleet managers to explore cleaner fuel options.

Steve FitzGerald spoke for longer than I've ever heard him talk, about facilitating more than advocating, union work, the City of Lakewood, the United Way, Lakewood Buzz, nonprofit newswire, and publishing Roldo Bartimole. Jenny with NoLastName told us about school in Wisconsin, environmental studies, New Zealand organic farms, and her current incarnation at EarthWatch. Kevin Cronin the attorney and advocate for Cleveland Bikes spoke for less time than I've ever seen him do and left us with the snappy, pithy: "When Cleveland bikes, Cleveland benefits."

Eric Krause (?) introduced himself as one of the new-bees at Insivia, up here by choice from Athens, Ohio. Bill Callahan told us about his background in energy programs, in community organizing, how we all still do it so horribly up and down the social ladder, the reason he pays attention, and the Foreclosure Action Coalition. Mike Gesing previewed the new NE Ohio Citizens League and told of his history with Richard Shatten, REI, and Ed Morrison. Andy Halko interjected the perspective of the businessperson and how to bring economic change about economically. Betsey Merkel emerged from behind the camera and pertly delivered something that made me note "footsoldier" and "relentless" with regard to Ed Hauser.

In the general discussion that now followed, O'Brien talks of the huge disconnect, turning blogs and websites into print, and how at 53 years old he's seen print making a bit of money. Callahan reinforced seeing "where the nodes aren't." Krebs pointed out that one way to strengthen a network is to diversify the network; we need to be uncomfortable to grow, to get out of the comfort zone. (The idea of "dis-ease"?) Twittering. Computers. PDAs. Cellphones. Access for everybody. Science-cartoon web rings as a pleasant memory to be revived?

My hands hurt. My notes ran out. I need to quit. Listen to the whole podcast; view the whole on You-Tube or Mogulus; it was a good session. Here's Betsey's parting shot on RealNEO:

* Watch "The Changing Landscape of Public Advocacy: Citizen-Community Priorities and Web 2.0" Oct 2 Live Show on the Midtown Brews Broadcast channel or on You Tube

Pass this information along freely. All welcome.

Questions? Contact: Betsey Merkel, The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open), 4415 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44113 Ph: 216-246-2447


  1. Thank you, Tim. I am sure that it was a lot of work but believe me well worth it. It gives a wonderful synopsis of what we said and what we did at Midtown Brews in October.

    A needed chronicle in our quest to bring economic viability to Northeast Ohio using new models new tools and new voices.

  2. Thank you, Tim. This summary and the multimedia captures on Mogulus and You Tube is the modern day research to advise every regional leadership decision making action. Open, guided conversations represent the highest level of information to inform each other and our government civil servants and should be treated accordingly. No more back room politics ironed out by 3-4 people behind closed doors affecting regions - these are the community priorities and the bottom line to guide public (and private) economic development investment dollars. The content is what is in people's mind's and hearts at the moment, together articulating a 12D view of the abundant opportunities we must invest in now for our children's future.

  3. Thanks for the conversation and recap, Tim. Great to see you and Gloria again!

    All the Best,
    Steve FitzGerald