The Big Easy kicked my butt. Emotionally. Physically. Emotionally again. So many life lessons learned. So much to say. So many photos to post. I have been home for two days now and struggling to put it all into coherent words, but I will as it needs to get out of me and it needs to get out of me fast to ensure I capture it all.
First, and foremost...I love New Orleans. I so want that city to be whole again, and it truly breaks my heart to see what they have been through over the last eight months. We need to remember that just because it isn't on the news everyday doesn't mean everything is ok down there. There is much that needs to be done and it seems there is a large disconnect between the people currently living there, those who have moved away, and the rest of the world.
This was one of the main reasons we wanted to host a BrainJams event in New Orleans. We wanted to see what we, as techies and marketing folks, could do to help in the rebuilding cause. We wanted to lend a hand, but how (?) as neither Chris or I can build a house. Of course, I can help you decorate one, but construction is not our forte. We can't send you a lot of money as we simply don't have it. We can donate clothing and other household items (and will). We can help you by networking and linking communities together - enabling small businesses to connect with technologists, marketers, government workers, non-profits, and other business owners both in New Orleans and around the world. We can provide an easy forum for others to strike up a conversation - tell each other what resources you need or what you have to share to help one other. Yes, that by golly we can definitely do - and did - with the help of Jerry Cashman from Blodgett & Cashman, Chris Schultz and Blake Killian from HuckABuck, and Mark Lewis from the LTC.The BrainJams New Orleans event was completely different from anything we had ever done before as we were all gathering with one specific topic in mind - helping NOLA - and I was amazed at the distance some had traveled just to spend the day with us (Dave Coustan came from Atlanta, CarlenLea Lesser and Dave Hogge hailed from D.C.). The event was small, intimate, and perfectly sized to get the 'real' conversations started.
One of the key items I quickly learned from local blogger Alan Gutierrez is there seems to be a good sized community of bloggers within the city, but most are not utilizing tags or keywords which would help many outside of the city find out what is going on at home. So how do we correct that, you ask? Well, we adopt a NOLA blogger and teach them some basics to ensure they maximize the reach of their posts of course! I think this is totally brilliant and Alan has put the word out and will be developing a list of folks who would like to learn how to blog. Of course, his focus will be on NOLA, but we can easily find a 'mentor' for anyone (anywhere) who wishes to start blogging. It is all about supporting the 'Show. Do. Teach.' model (think I learned this from Liz Henry and/or Grace Davis). Empower people by teaching them something - then encourage them teach someone else and so on. Following this format will build a true community and will allow us ALL to learn something in the process.
Another idea is for the group to 'adopt' one business per month and focus on giving them the tools they need to get back online quickly. The room was full of a diverse group of people who wish to help by utilizing their skill sets, and I truly believe if we focus on one business per month we can really make an impact without taxing the resources we have available to us. The group is hammering out the details now so stay tuned for further information...
Chris podcasted the closing conversation where these two ideas really sunk in and took legs, and posted it to the BrainJams site here.
I think it really important to get 'thank yous' the other participants, for your support and desire to contribute made this event a true success: Jeff Harris (who I wish to throw back some more beers with as I am sure there are plenty more stories to be told), Scott Fredrickson (who makes the most amazing stainless steel jigsaw puzzles [see photo] - hello, the holidays are right around the corner people), Brian Oberkirch (for your 'let's just get it done' attitude and willingness to open up your network), and Barrett Leibe (for coming when you didn't have a clue what we were trying to do ). Thank you all!
I would also like to send a big love out to my consort, Chris Heuer. His willingness to always put others first sends chills down my spine to this day. You have an amazing spirit and a loving heart, and I am honored to walk hand in hand with you as we help plant the seed of BrainJams across the country.
I am simply thrilled to be part of this group wishing to make a difference in the world - one city at a time.
Photo credit: Chris Heuer and Diabolical Puzzles
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