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I would say that it’s with a heavy heart that I am canceling this conference, if it weren’t for the sense of relief that comes with this announcement. I have struggled with this for long enough. The time has come to let it go.
This has been weighing heavily on me since the idea first came to me, and although I still stand behind the wonderful lineup of speakers, the idea that we could treat each other better, and the concept of using face-to-face interaction to solve difficult problems collaboratively, the community belongs to all of us, and it was arrogant of me to think that I was the right person to carry this torch. I think there are people out there who are better at facilitating real change in our community than me. Maybe that person is you.
For all those who supported the effort and reached out with words of kindness, I don’t know that you’re aware of how much that meant. It gives me hope for the future, quite honestly, and I’m so grateful for your generosity. I am truly sorry that I let you down by not following through with this. I will be returning your donations to you; you’ll be contacted via email in the next few days.
My reasons for canceling this conference are personal. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’m a fixer by nature. Maybe you know what that’s like. We want so badly to help make things better, sometimes we’re blinded by this drive. Can we fix it? Yes we can! We focus on the problems around us, internalize them, and make them our own burdens. We see bad things happening, and we want to take action to stop them. We feel personally responsible for their solutions and outcomes. (And sometimes, although our intentions are good and we think we’re actually helping, we’re just making things worse.)
Truth is, I can’t be a fixer anymore. Being a lifetime fixer has led me down the path of depression, anxiety, anger, abusive relationships, divorce, and self-destructive choices. More recently, being a fixer has physically harmed me through stress and anxiety attacks, and has meant sacrificing time with my friends, family, and the activities that are important and joyful for me.
Even though I always knew I was a fixer, its long term effects were solidified during a recent very eye-opening visit to my doctor. Being a fixer is going to kill me if I don’t stop.
I know that the only thing I can really fix is myself. I can continue to be the change I want to see in the world. I can continue to approach each new person I meet with kindness and compassion, with respect, openness, and empathy. I can make the community welcoming and inclusive through my own interactions. I can focus on and perpetuate the joyful, purposeful pieces of life. I can forgive myself and others when they make mistakes. I can learn new things and share them with others in a Jim Weirich way. I can release self-destructive emotions like fear, anger, guilt and shame, and fill the void with love, learning, creativity, enthusiasm and humor. I can take better care of myself and those around me. I can release my attachment and identity to the things I want to fix (thanks for that, Aly). I am more than the problems I care about and want to solve.
I know I can’t change the world, but me not changing the world doesn’t mean I stop caring. It just means that I focus on the things I can change, and become a better listener and supporter for those who are struggling, and for my fellow fixers who are doing good in the world.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.
We notified all ticket holders a few weeks ago, but for any last minute purchasers, we will be postponing the conference until September. We want to craft the best conference experience we can, and postponing will allow us to do just that.
Dates are still being confirmed, and we’ll let everyone know as soon as we have it nailed down. Thanks very much for your patience!
If you have any questions about this, you can send us an email. <3
We are very excited to add Joey Katona to our list of speakers. Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Joey Katona (@JoeyKatona) is the Global Project Manager for the Empathy Initiative at Ashoka, the world’s largest association of social entrepreneurs. In this capacity, he participates in the strategic development of the start-up and works to creatively manage the day-to-day operations. Prior to joining Ashoka, Joey was a Trial Manager at Covington & Burling LLC in Washington, DC. He is also Co-Founder of the DC-based social venture, SPACIOUS. As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Joey raised nearly $100,000 to finance the cost of his friend’s college tuition and expenses at Earlham College. While at Ashoka, he is pursuing graduate study at George Mason University in conflict resolution. Joey serves on the Board of Directors of the restorative justice nonprofit, Offender Aid and Restoration. He and his wife Rebecca love living in their 100-year-old Capitol Hill row house.
Joey will be speaking about the Empathy Initiative at Ashoka:
Empathy doesn’t just mean treating others better—it means doing better. Empathy helps us to understand others, but it’s also a key currency in a world defined by connectivity and change. Gone are the days in which we worked and lived only alongside those who looked the same, spoke the same, and thought the same. How well we do—whether in the classroom, at home, or the boardroom—will depend on how well we forge and navigate relationships. If we can empathize, then we can communicate, collaborate, lead, and solve problems—for ourselves and for each other.
In his interactive presentation, Joey will share why empathy is the most important skill you can learn and practice, as demonstrated by Ashoka’s network of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs—many of whom cite empathy at the core of their work, regardless of industry or background. These are men and women with powerful new solutions to today’s most difficult challenges, who possess the skills and drive to create entirely new patterns in their fields—from education to health to the environment. Today, Joey is helping to shape what Ashoka calls an Everyone a Changemaker world: one in which people of every age are equipped with agency and the empathy, teamwork, and leadership skills they need to thrive in our rapidly changing world.
Peter Block is an author, consultant and citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. His work is about chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community.
Peter is the author of several best selling books. The most widely known being Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used (1st edition 1980, 3rd edition 2011); Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest (1993) and The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work (1987).
Community: The Structure of Belonging (Berrett Koehler) came out in 2008. He has also authored. The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters. Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophic Insight to the Real World, was co-authored with consultant and philosopher Peter Koestenbaum (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2001).
The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, co-authored with John McKnight, was published by Berrett Koehler in spring 2010.
The books are about ways to create workplaces and communities that work for all. They offer an alternative to the patriarchal beliefs that dominate our culture. His work is to bring change into the world through consent and connectedness rather than through mandate and force.
He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Peter to build the skills outlined in his books.
Peter serves on the Boards of Directors of Cincinnati Classical Public Radio; Elementz, a Hip Hop center for urban youth; and LivePerson, a provider of online engagement solutions. He is on the Advisory Board for the Festival in the Workplace Institute, Bahamas. He is the first Distinguished Consultant-in-Residence at Xavier University. With other volunteers in Cincinnati, Peter began A Small Group, whose work is to create a new community narrative and to bring his work on civic engagement into being.
Peter’s office is in Mystic, Connecticut. You can visit his websites at www.peterblock.com, www.abundantcommunity.com, www.designedlearning.com, and www.asmallgroup.net. He welcomes being contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter’s talk is entitled Community: The Structure of Belonging
We are in the business of learning, not teaching or training. All learning and change require a community to sustain it. Learning is a social phenomenon first and content/clarity second. Community, and a sense of belonging, is created by bringing a cross section of the community into a new conversation. If we maintain the old conversations about making the world predictable, measurable, individual focused and leader driven, nothing will change.
The work is to overcome the culture of isolation, fear and waiting for the leaders to get their act together. This occurs when we shift the conversation from problem solving to possibility, deficiencies and needs to gifts, and blame and barter to ownership and commitment. Peter’s session will be a demonstration of its theory, so the tools of communal transformation will be in the experience.
Peter will define a form of leadership that depends on listening, convening, invitation, and the triumph of questions over answers. This session will minimize PowerPoint and maximize experience. No small task in a world of speed, efficiency, and fast food. This is a shift in the ecology of gathering as the way to sustain healthy culture, high performance, and a carbon free way of being together. All this requires a shift in thinking. He will explore a way of thinking about our places (workplaces, neighborhoods, towns) that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and will discuss what we can do to make that happen. Learn powerful conversations that will shift the focus to engagement and possibility, leading to the creation of a new future. The essence is to take a step forward in our thinking and design about the ways people in communities come together to produce something new for themselves.
- Understand the conditions under which transformation can occur.
- Define leadership as listening, convening, invitation, and the triumph of questions over answers.
- Understand the importance of community and how it is created.
- Demonstrate in this session the principles of community being discussed.
- Ways to design gatherings so that transformation can occur
- Learn conversations that will lead toward a future different from the past
Sindy Warren is the principal of Warren & Associates LLC and an Associate Partner of Legacy Business Cultures. She is an HR and employment law consultant and uses her legal expertise to help clients create and maintain positive and legally compliant employment practices. Sindy creates and delivers training programs on harassment and discrimination and conducts independent workplace investigations. She is a frequent speaker and writer on all thing employment-law related. Sindy received her J.D. with honors from Stanford University. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Tufts University (Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude).
Sindy will be speaking about The Science of Respect.
Respect. It’s a simple concept, a universally powerful motivator, and a core value for many global organizations. Why, then, is it so elusive in the modern workplace? With today’s increasingly diverse workforces, organizational culture has never been more important and a foundation of Respect is the bedrock. It sets the stage for engagement, promotes collaboration and inclusion, and unleashes extraordinary creativity and resilience.
In her talk, Sindy goes beyond the typical “feel good” themes of organizational culture and digs deeply into the topics of evolution, psychology and neuroscience to show how powerful of a catalyst Respect can be. More importantly, she shares practical, easy-to-implement strategies for helping to promote respectful work cultures and offers case study details on how best-in-class global employers are already using respect to make a difference with both their cultures and bottom lines.
With her interactive, often humorous style, Sindy also helps participants better understand the emotional experience of respect, what it looks and feels like, and how it radically differs from tolerance. She links respect of others to respect of self, discusses how disrespectful behaviors can trigger immediate and lasting damage to our human capital and, most importantly, creates a compelling and articulate call for action.
You can now attend Day 1 of the conference (March 18, the “speaker” day) for a $100 donation to TRUCEConf. If you have already donated $100, you will be receiving an email with your ticket information inside. Keep an eye out for it! If you can’t use the ticket, feel free to pass it along to someone who can.
Full tickets for the conference (or any small donation amount) can still be purchased at our GoFundMe page. Every little bit helps, and we greatly appreciate your generosity! Your money will help cover conference expenses and bring people together to make the community more awesome for us all. <3
We are thrilled to announce our next TRUCEConf speaker, Jeff Brown!
Jeff Brown is the Executive Director of Compassionate Communication of Central Ohio, a training and consulting organization based on Columbus, OH (since 2009). He is a Certified Trainer (since 2005) with the Center for Nonviolent Communication, the organization founded by the creator of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), clinical psychologist Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.
Jeff holds a master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Monica (Los Angeles, CA) and is trained in restorative justice practices including Victim-Offender Reconciliation, Community Mediation and Restorative Circles.
From 2009-2012, he was a trainer with the NVC Training Institute, a collaboration of six trainers who offered in-depth residential retreats worldwide in Compassionate-Nonviolent Communication.
Jeff will be speaking about Compassionate Communication.
Compassionate Communication (formally known as Nonviolent Communication or “NVC”) creates a world where communication skills become life-enriching tools and people are exchanging the information necessary to resolve their differences peacefully.
NVC is a life-changing way of interacting that facilitates the flow of communication with a focus on universal human needs, the practice of NVC emphasizes emotional intelligence over intellectual analysis in expressing what’s going on in people.
With its reliance on objective observations rather than evaluations NVC avoids making people defend themselves from value-laden judgments. And finally, by employing clear requests in place of demands, NVC raises the bar for communication skills by allowing everyone to get their needs met on their own terms, without coercion, fear of retribution, or loss of self-esteem.
From the Center for Compassionate Communicate website:
We are creating a world where peace, mutual respect and compassionate relationships are the norm…
… and where people find creative and interactive ways to transform their conflicts — and their enemy images of one another — through a process of communication that connects us across differences in gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion and political beliefs.
We are very excited to announce our first speaker, Julia Serano!
Julia Serano is a transgender American writer, spoken-word performer, trans-bi activist, and biologist. Serano currently lives in Oakland, California and is the author of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Her second book, Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, was published on September 10, 2013 by Seal Press. You can read more about Julia on her website or on Wikipedia.
Julia’s talk is entitled A Holistic Approach to Feminism. From the cover of her recent book, Excluded:
While feminist and queer/LGBTQIA+ movements are designed to challenge sexism, they often simultaneously police gender and sexuality—sometimes just as fiercely as the straight-male-centric mainstream does. Here, acclaimed feminist and queer activist Julia Serano chronicles this problem of exclusion within these movements. She advocates for a more holistic approach to fighting sexism that avoids these pitfalls, and offers new ways of thinking about gender, sexuality, and sexism that foster inclusivity rather than exclusivity.
This talk highlights some of the main strategies she forwards in Excluded, such as
- recognizing that there is natural variation in sex, gender and sexuality and that people are fundamentally heterogeneous;
- recognizing that each of us is unique with regards to our life experiences and social situation, and therefore we each have a somewhat different vantage point from which we view gender and sexuality, and sexism and marginalization;
- developing new strategies to challenge all forms of sexism and marginalization, rather than merely those that we personally experience or are already familiar with.
We can now announce that the dates of the conference will be March 18-19, 2014.
If you were a $200 donor to the GoFundMe page, you are entitled to a ticket to the conference. We will be opening registration in a few days, so watch for an email that will include a special link to register.
We have also updated the venue page with more information.
Here’s a reminder that if you wish to join in the planning of TRUCEConf, or want to see what we’re up to, simply request an invite to the Google Group, and we’ll add you right away. There, you can also see current volunteer opportunities if you are interested in volunteering at the conference. We’d love to have you participate.
Can’t wait to see you in March!
I want to just thank everyone again for your feedback, both positive and negative. It’s evident to me that I have to clear a few things up with you. I’ve had email conversations with many of you, and there are some common concerns that I’d like to address all at once.
Let’s Get Personal
Something that I found interesting was the importance of context you had when you came to this site. I’ve blogged about the importance of context before, but in this case it was huge. Those who knew me personally gave me the benefit of the doubt (with regard to the limited content on the site and intent), but some of you who didn’t know me assumed the worst, especially with regard to my intent and my motivations for doing this (particularly when things weren’t super clear.)
When people don’t have context, they connect their own dots, fill in their own blanks, and make their own assumptions based on their own experiences. That’s what humans do. I do it, too.
In the interest of context, here are some things that make me sad, and some of the things that pushed me to the point of wanting to create a forum for dialogue:
- I’m sad that it secretly relieves me that my 13-year-old daughter would rather be a second grade teacher instead of pursuing a career in tech. I’m relieved because her chances of being harassed, assaulted or belittled and mocked are probably a lot less there.
- I’m sad that I’ve been in this industry for 16 years and this culture is still alienating, aggressive, harmful and nasty. We still assault and offend and harass our marginalized community members. We are hateful in the way we speak to each other, and we make newcomers feel like idiots. Basically, we can be shitty to each other. Especially when we disagree.
- I’m sad that there are marginalized people who are afraid to speak about their experiences in tech for fear of backlash from the community. Both positive and negative. Those with negative experiences get backlash, but also so do those with positive ones. We can’t win, and we’re afraid.
- I’m sad that people are terrified to come to community events.
- I’m sad that there are brilliant, kind, and caring people who are being driven out of the community because they’re being lumped into a category that does not befit them.
- I’m sad that there are caring, passionate people who are afraid to engage with anyone about this topic for fear of backlash from the community or unintentionally offending someone.
- I’m sad that the vast majority of us want the same thing (a safe, inclusive, tolerant, and kind community) but we haven’t found space to come together in a civil way to talk about it or alternative viewpoints.
- I’m sad that we are smart, creative, innovative people that solve crazy hard problems all the time, and yet we can’t seem to figure out how to be civil to each other. We have our own status quo, and we make our own rules, yet we haven’t made “not being a shitty human” part of that.
Quite frankly, these things keep me up at night, and I’m tired. I’m tired of bad things happening. I’m tired of people being hurt in the community, and I’m tired of a large portion of us being afraid to even talk about it.
I don’t want us to be in this environment anymore, do you? And what about our kids? Is this the legacy we leave for them? I’d like to think we can do better.
Why are you doing this by yourself? Why not enlist the help of others?
I’ve helped organize numerous conferences over the years. They are tons of work. Doing one by yourself is not super fun, and it’s much better to get a broad perspective and a diverse group working on it. So why in the world didn’t I have a committee to help me on this?
Truth is, while I did enlist feedback from numerous people prior to announcing it, I also was not sure what to expect. I had no idea how the community would react to the conference. My hope was that it would be viewed with an open mind, despite the sketchy details of what I envisioned. But honestly, I wasn’t sure.
Normally I don’t make decisions on other people’s behalf, but somehow this time seemed different. If there was going to be any negative backlash, I didn’t want to put anyone else in the line of fire unknowingly. If there was to be a target, I wanted it to be me and me alone. I would bear that burden by myself; it didn’t seem fair otherwise.
Since announcing the conference, I’ve had a host of volunteers step up and ask to be a part of it. And now that the idea is out in the open, and people have a better idea of what they’re signing up for, I’m excited to welcome them to be a part of the official planning committee. To make collaboration easier and more inclusive, I’ve opened a Google Group for more discussion about this. If you want to volunteer or assist in the planning of the conference, feel free to request an invite. We’d love to have you. I do not own this conference. This conference belongs to the community.
This “truce” thing. Who’s it between, anyway? This analogy sucks, Elizabeth.
Maybe it does. Maybe you’re right. I know for some of you it’s far from perfect, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the inferences and assumptions that were implied because I didn’t make it clearer what my thought process was. And I’m sorry for the pain it caused.
I’ve been finding it difficult to put into words why it spoke to me. As a writer, that’s an odd feeling for me. And I know some of you are not thrilled with dictionary definitions, but I poked around and found a better definition of the word that speaks to my vision for this conference.
This conference is meant to be a time of peace amidst chaos.
This conference is not a place for you to call up the person who sexually assaulted you and invite them to come hug it out with you in a public setting.
This conference is a time where we can talk about making our culture better for everyone, in an open, respectful, caring, and kind environment. It’s meant to bring hope and empowerment, not anxiety and fear.
Let me be clear. I am not completely tied to the name TRUCEConf. Maybe it should be renamed PEACEConf or HARMONYConf or LOVEConf or HEYLETSSTOPBEINGSHITTYHUMANSConf. We can change the name, and if you’d like to be a part of that discussion, please request an invite to the Google Group. We’ll make it a group decision.
You can’t tell me not to be angry, Elizabeth.
You’re absolutely right. I can’t. This isn’t the time or place for me to discuss my own experiences but I hope you can trust me that I understand your pain and anger (and all the other things that go along with this). Believe me, I understand.
What I don’t want at the conference is a yelling match. We’re there to find solutions together, not yell at each other. At this conference, we all are equal and share equally valuable voices. So when I ask you to treat your other attendees with respect and equality, please know that it’s not in the interest of tone policing. It’s in the general spirit of the conference. All attendees are asked to respect the Code of Conduct equally.
Why don’t you have the schedule posted? What are you even doing?
Turns out, it’s difficult to confirm speakers without a firm date. And it’s difficult to confirm a date without a venue. And it’s difficult to confirm a venue without money to reserve it. Believe me, I wish I could have financially supported this myself. But alas, I couldn’t. I decided to announce the conference, so that maybe I would have enough donations to reserve the venue, and move forward. That was probably an epic mistake, but I had no choice. And just because details weren’t provided on the site didn’t mean that a lot of thought hadn’t gone into this.
As I mentioned before, speaker invitations were sent a while ago, and we’re still working on confirming them. I have added a little more info to the Schedule page if you’re curious about the broader vision. And if you’d like to add suggestions for an awesome speaker, please request an invite to the Google Group and join in the conversation.
How can you guarantee my safety at this conference?
I can no more guarantee your safety at the conference than I can guarantee you won’t get in a car accident on the way to the conference itself. But what I can do is address things that are within my control. There will be a two-pronged approach to making you feel safe and welcome at TRUCEConf (or whatever the name ends up being). The first is that the tone of the conference will be set upfront, and will be one of, yes you guessed it, trust, respect, unity, compassion, and equality. The Code of Conduct will be read in the opening comments, and the environment around the conference (the talks, the interaction with conference staff, the nature of the small group discussions) will support a welcoming, safe environment for everyone.
Secondly, I’ve gotten some great feedback around the use of facilitators and trained moderators during the small group discussions on Day Two. Once we have more details around this we’ll post them to the site. But please know that just because it isn’t on the site yet, doesn’t mean we aren’t giving it a huge amount of thought. If this is something that is of particular interest to you, and you want to help your fellow attendees stay safe, feel free to join our Google Group and add your constructive feedback and suggestions there.
Why are you only focusing on gender here?
As I mentioned before, it was probably a mistake to make this only about gender initially. And after having several email discussions with some of you, I think it’s fair to say that the solutions and behaviors we are looking for, (to make this culture more welcoming and kind,) affect the relationships between us all. If we can shift our culture to be more empathetic, kind, and respectful, everyone will benefit, including our minority and marginalized community members. Or at least it’s my belief that will be the outcome.
How do you know this conference will make things better?
Honestly, I don’t. It’s my hope that it will, but this is Iteration 0. This will be a learning experience for us all, and if this conference happens again (or other initiatives spawn as a result), I can only hope that they will get better with time and through more iterations.
In closing, I love you.
To all those that have offered kind words to me in public or private, that have offered constructive feedback and been open to discussing some of your concerns with me, I love you. And to all those who have made me a target for personal insults and harassment, I have nothing but love for you, too, even though you may not want to hear that. I understand your anger and pain, and I hope you know I’m just trying to make things better.