I spent last weekend at this year’s Kinnernet Europe un-conference together with 150 invited guests from around the world in the lovely town of Avallon, France. Co-hosted by Yossi Vardi and Marc Goldberg, Kinnernet Europe self-identifies as a wild, out of the box, irreverent, bottom-up innovative, creative and cultural ‘un-conference’ that enables people to meet, share their vision and invent desirable futures.
Kinnernet Europe is a weekend where we play, think, question, make new friends, cherish old ones and actively practice kindness. It is a time where we reinforce each other’s successes and embrace and accept each other’s failures.
To call it a research agenda for fostering desirable futures doesn’t capture its playful spirit but it does help to contextualize what is actually happening. We explore and discuss what is desirable today and how to preserve and promote it in the future.
The Kinnernet vision reflects widely held values — freedom from want and from fear, a desire for higher quality lifestyles, a more equitable world, and a concern for innovation. These goals are closely coupled.
The future is as of yet unwritten. Rather than simply “happening”, the human future depends on individual and collective choices and actions.
Margaret Mead, an anthropologist who spent her life studying what makes societies change, summed up her findings in a quote that became famous:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
She had learned that the most important changes are not handed down because powerful politicians or business executives had a bright idea. It is the little groups, clear in purpose and supporting each member, that really make things happen.
Kinnernet recognizes the importance of enhancing and supporting the human capacity for change. Since human development is co-created, the complete answer to “who we are” does not lay solely in our genes or brains or in the labels that we are given. Rather we continue to develop our identities through our relationships with others. It is the forming and development of ongoing, vital relationships that support and shape us and that make Kinnernet what it is.
Kinnernet understands that through relationships we explore our worlds and become aware of the possibilities of our lives. We learn to attach shared meanings to our emotions and experiences, figure out what is and is not considered important, and test our emerging ideas by seeing how others respond.
Bit by bit, we develop motivation and direction as our daily experiments receive positive and gratifying responses. Relationships shape us – not in a coercive way, but as mutually engaged participants exploring the world together. We learn to trust, to give and take, and ultimately to empathize and “feel with” others. These things cannot be taught in a lecture or a lesson; they can only be experienced over time, in the company of caring guides.
The exhilaration of pioneering a socially and technologically enhanced way of life becomes a powerful attracting force in its own right, a self-fulfilling prophecy able to draw the present to itself.
Because we care, then Kinnernet.