I went for a walk in my old neighborhood the other day. I lived in Chicago’s Lakeview for about ten years. It’s a fun place with plenty of foot traffic, all kinds of shops, ethnic eateries and lots of cafes. It’s a prime destination for Black Friday.
Lately, those who make a living as pundits have been busy clicking and clucking and clattering keyboards and uttering bellicose profundities about one, single-syllable word: Facts. The questions about fact morphing into fiction float and bob about like so many balloons buoyed by the media winds.
Me – I’m not chasing any balloons because I take as fact very little of what I read or see broadcast in any of the media streams. I am one of those people who thought the Barry Levinson film, “Wag the Dog,” was a thinly veiled documentary.
Instead I ride the media currents to see what is bobbing on the horizon of the public mind. What’s happening today is a simple matter: The media soufflé has flattened and with the collapse of the puffery – within corporations, government, and media outlets – we are rushing to fill the void. I’m enjoying the “whooshing sound,” and looking forward to seeing what kind of omelets we’re left with.
Label me wacky or label me a cynic (perhaps both!), but for me a fact begins with that which I can personally touch, see, smell, taste, and hear. I then apply the gut test – my intuitive sense – to create an impression aligned with my value system, cultural wants and spiritual beliefs. Some of my criteria are tangible and some are intangible. And then, when I’m done I still don’t have a fact. I have my belief. One of my core beliefs is that we are all – each of us – a spinmeister of sorts.
I liked the tale that was being spun by master storyteller Judy Wicks, owner of Philadelphia-based White Dog Cafe, co-chair of the National Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and chair of the Social Venture Network (SVN). She was speaking at a kickoff meeting for a new organization here called Sustainable Chicago.
Wicks says that upon waking every day, she looks in the mirror and says: “Good Morning Beautiful Business.” You have to like a woman who has two cabins in the woods, one named “Happy House,” and the other named “Fart Freely.” What began as a home-based coffee shop in 1983 is now a restaurant that seats 200 and grosses $5 million a year, with a commitment to fun, food and social activism.
What was most persuasive about Wicks was that her tale came right from her heart. I could tell because I had heard it before – from entrepreneurs of all political stripes and others involved in building local economies. That is, that business is really about relationships, relationships with certifiable, verifiable, living, breathing real people.
“A large factor in our success is that we are a real community-based business,” Wicks said. “We share values with our customers.”
“Living and working in the same community has given me a great sense of place, which is really important for building local, living economies,” Wicks said. “When you work and you live in the same place there is a very short distance between decision makers and the person who is affected by your decisions because every day you see your customers that you serve, every day you see your employees that you work with. And you live in the community and you see your neighbors (and the impact of your decisions.)”
That’s the kind of real world fact-checking that resonates for me, and helps me spin my personal vision of a perfect world. It also occurred to me that that’s the kind of fact-checking you get, and you can create through your local WorldWIT email discussions and real world events.
WorldWIT was ahead of the game in understanding that the strength of the new email tools of the web could help women with a friendly point of view, women from the same work/life integration tribe, women in the same cities and regions, share information with each other, and then create real world networks.
When you post a question to a local discussion list, like ChicWIT, you can receive a dozen or more replies. You can pick and choose what information to follow up on based on your own criteria. Even better yet, you can attend a networking event and meet the helpful individuals who communicate with you through the lists. And if something happens and you have to change jobs and move to another city, you can use the same WorldWIT resource to check out your new hometown.
Before the rush to make the Web a commercial force, there was a web that was a community of people. Hobbyists and techies and those who were simply curious built the web by putting up special interest sites, basically as communications tools that said, ” Hi, there – look what I’ve done!” That was about it. If you were on the web around 1995, you will remember when Yahoo was just a page of favorite links, a daily record of what was new on the web, put up by a couple of guys who thought the information-sharing was really neat. It was a community, and the sites were places where like attracted like, where you could find your tribe.
During the days of the dotcom gold rush, some of us lost site of the tribal energy because some financial wizards got the idea that there was money in huge global markets and numbers of eyeballs. Perhaps there is. But in my opinion, that is not the richest or deepest well.
The under tapped frontier is the landscape occupied by WorldWIT, where the locals knock on each other’s doors to find the answers to the burning questions of the day, the answers that simplify our everyday lives.
When we send our request to the WorldWIT universe, we are inviting friendship and collegial exchange. We are building trust and creating relationships. We – friends, neighbors and colleagues – are finding and becoming trusted sources for each other. And that is a great way – and the only way – to do business with each other. And that – to me – is a fact that I count on.