When you live in Vancouver, summer time is all about spending time on the Gulf Islands and this summer is no different. I just got back from a seven day adventure on Cortes Island which five of those days was spent at Hollyhock at the Summer Gathering. The Summer Gathering is an invitational conference that gathers the best thinkers, activists and social change agents from around the world! Artist Chris Jordan, scientist Rupert Sheldrake, wordsmith Rachel Bagby, photographer Kevin W. Kelley, filmmaker Bill Weaver, social technologist Leif Utne, engineer Jeff Vanderclute, and educator Rennie Keats were just a few of the participants of this event.
The entire week was hosted by Rick Ingrasci who specializes in consciousness research and poverty eradication activist Torkin Wakefield. Each day started off with an opening circle invocation, a series of morning talks that were organized around a specific topic and then an afternoon of offered workshops from all of the 120 participants.
The morning sessions included talks like global climate change with Tzeporah Berman, student activism with Michael Cox, living with hope and a spirit of possibility with Pravin Pillay, the support & healing of marginalized people with Aqeela Sherrills, the destruction of the world’s oceans resulting from plastics with Chris Jordan and Manuel Maqueda, global peace and social justice with Dot Maver, aboriginal and first nations issues in Canada, and lots of other super intellectual powerful presentations… thankfully the intensity of the topics was broken up by performances by some of the remarkable musicians in attendance. At any given point I could hear drums beating, a flute playing, a trumpet, guitar or even Christen Lien-McArdle‘s viola carrying a melody somewhere on Hollyhock.
There were so many really brilliant people here that often times the morning sessions were so jam packed with information. When proposed with what afternoon session to attend, I was drowning in the flow of awesomeness. I managed tho and spent my time attending sessions on akido, climate change activism, creative writing as well as swimming in the ocean and hangin w/ people one on one. I really liked the closing night puppet show by Little Woo for it was a highly creative way of incorporating new media with brilliant story-telling.
I had the opportunity to give one of talks during the ‘emerging cultures’ morning session. I gave my ‘Open Everything‘ talk from Pecha Kucha 5 Vancouver and TED x Shanghai. It was great to be able to share the ideas of free culture and openness with a group of individuals where some had never even heard about Creative Commons. My talk was a lead into an afternoon skills workshop I facilitated with Leif Utne called (New) Media Literacy. This session was a success in the fact that it was well attended but also generated a lot of discussion around new media skills that could be great additional skill sets for all of the other discussions that were generated this week around activism, global issues like climate change, social justice, empowerment through technology and poverty eradication.
The Summer Gathering was also a full week of exchanging ideas and making connections with people from all areas of study to find cross-disciplinary connections. Wilford Welch announced his Beyond Sustainability conference in 2010 which connects the weeks discussions on climate change with the notion of what is really beyond the next step in such a task. Another connection that was announced was Manuel Maqueda and Chris Jordan’s morning talk about the effect of plastic on our society and the devastating effect of it in our oceans. They announced, along with Bill Weaver, that they were taking a trip to Midway Atoll to explore and document the effects of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This garbage patch is one of the largest collections of plastic and garbage in the ocean and is destroying the local oceanic ecosystem. Combined with the artistic talents of these three individuals plus their drive in activism, this trip will be a huge eye-opening experience for everyone on the downward spiral that is happening to our oceans.
Established over 25 years Hollyhock is a retreat center that hosts many conferences all year round that range in topics from writing, to social entrepenuership, to leadership and philanthropy. Often quoted as providing “learning holidays”, each of the retreats provides information sessions by talented experts in all fields. Their mission statement says that they inspire, nourish and support the people who are making the world a better place. The actual land of Hollyhock is surrounded by beautiful ocean, a flourishing garden full of flowers and 15 different building structures that host the talks, workshops, meditation and sessions for all of their programs. A few really amazing conferences happen at the center are Bill Weaver’s Media That Matters, Jason Mogus‘ Web of Change, Open Everything which was a retreat conference focused on the open culture and Joel Solomon and Pam Chaloult‘s Social Venture Institute. I had the opportunity to attend a few of these conferences and the experiences were life-changing.
This September Hollyhock will be hosting Web of Change again. This conference gathers the upcoming leaders and forward thinkers that are involved with social media, technology and the digital world. Started back in 2001 as a smaller gathering on Cortes, Web of Change has just continued to grow every year with the newest addition of Social Tech Training being added to the WoC umbrella. This conference helps leaders and peers to share their wealth of knowledge and become adept with skills in the digital social change area. When I attended in 2005 I was connected with many different people interested in the area of social change in the digital/online spectrum. I learned a lot from these connections. I hope to attend the Web of Change 2009 at Hollyhock!