After reading my last post, Values and Principles, Ross Chapin (www.rosschapin.com.) wrote to me. Ross is an architect in the Northwest who has pioneered in the design and development of small “Pocket Neighborhoods” and is currently writing a book on the subject.
A group of friends was here for a post-Labor Day vacation, enjoying the last harmonies of Vineyard summer – warm water, cool breezes, and empty roads. Devon Hartman runs a design/build company in L.A. and Jamie Wolfe is a design/builder from Connecticut. Dennis Allen runs a building company in Santa Barbara, CA. Sal Alfano is the editor of both the Journal of Light Construction and Remodeling Magazine. Each is remarkable in his own way. Each has much to teach. All agreed to do a panel discussion for an SMCo company meeting.
The following questions were put to the four of them: what happened to your business (and you) between last September and this September, what lasting effects has the economic crisis had, and what’s next for you and your enterprise?
They spoke about the troubles of these times, but they also spoke – compellingly – about the possibilities, and new doors that are opening.
I managed to get through the Martha’s Vineyard summer attending only one fundraiser. That’s a record. And, for the first time in at least a decade, I did no fundraising for the causes I care about. I must admit it felt good. Fundraising is hard.
The single event I went to – for our Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick – was a good one,. It happened to be scheduled for the day after we found out Ted Kennedy died. Deval spoke about Kennedy. He said, “ I knew him before I ever met him because my mother used to say, to no one in particular” (and here he slipped into a drawl), “I just love me some Kennedy.”
My wife and daughter and I recently had the great good fortune to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The occasion was the one-year sobriety celebration of a close friend. We were invited to witness her achievement. This wasn’t just a celebration; it was a regular AA meeting. There were 35 people there, many of whom we knew (this is a very small place) and all of them no longer anonymous to us (as a friend says, in a small community like this there is no AA, just A). How brave, and generous, for them to welcome us and allow us to share their meeting.
I’ve always wanted to witness first hand the workings and organizational structure of this remarkably effective and superbly networked (without – even – the need of the internet!) institution. The amazing part – it has no leaders!
One more post (which might become two) about employee ownership and workplace democracy before I veer off toward some related topics. . . .
Despite the Obama administration’s recent shift in emphasis from homeownership to rental housing (which I will discuss in detail in a future post), homeownership is at the very heart of the American dream. Owning our work, and finding meaning there, seems as essential to a good life as owning our homes. But although many of us own homes, far fewer own our work.
At the recent conference of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC) in Burlington, VEOC board president Paul Millman asked an important question to the attendees, who represented some of the many remarkably progressive companies in the Green Mountain State. “Are we different enough?” he wondered.
Good question. I wonder about that often when I think about South Mountain. Are we promoting a system that would, if widespread, create fundamental change in our broken economic system? Or are we just avoiding one avalanche chute by traversing to another with a slightly more gradual incline?
Hard to say.