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Letters to the SF Chronicle about their article on
Feb Y2K conference
The front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, February
8, 1999 had an article entitled:
'60s Meet the '90s on the Road to Y2K: 'Movement' ambience at experts' gathering
by Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Here are excerpts:
With uplifting slogans taped to the walls and ``facilitators''
microphones, it felt like an organizing meeting right out of the protest
days of the '60s and '70s.
But this time the enemy was not Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War.
Instead, the weekend session centered on a mundane set of double digits
found in most of the world's computers that, if the experts are right, will
put us all in a world of chaos when this year comes to an end.
The setting was a weekend symposium in Oakland -- billed as ``Y2K Around
the Bay'' -- and the point of this education-cum-self-help-
cum-community-organizing confab was to get local Bay Area Y2K groups
together so they could exchange information, talk about Y2K preparations
and get the word out about the Year 2000 computer problem.
And it also illuminated the notion that many historic movements, however
fleeting, start out slowly, with a small band of acolytes hanging on to
words of a few genuine experts -- in this instance, all of them groping
through the thicket of Y2K and trying to get the rest of the world to
understand, as the Buffalo Springfield song said, that ``something's
happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear.''
And here are two letters in response:
Thank you for your coverage of the Feb. 6-7 conference in Oakland. One
exciting aspect was not covered, and that was the afternoon Open Space
breakouts (both days) for which all attendees became "experts"
if they had
something they wanted to brainstorm about and were willing to lead a session
in one of the many breakout rooms. This self-organizing part of the
conference is particularly powerful because it brings out the creative
energies of everyone rather than dependence on the experts. You will see
this process replicated more and more because it is so effective in helping
people collaborate and share their experience across the lines of social
classes and different levels of expertise so that everyone's view is expanded.
I appreciated your covering of the Y2K gathering in Oakland on February
6-7. I would like to add a few observations. A major difference between
this gathering (as well as many similar Y2K gatherings) and gathering in
the 60's is that this effort is strongly characterized by an effort to
collaborate and find common workable solutions that support a range of
hopes and needs.
The hundreds of hours of meetings I sat through in the 60's involved very
sectarian discussions and arguments, dominated by "leaders", and
only a handful of women. It took the women's movement to identify the
need to consider process and quality of participation as being as
important as ideological content and outcome. We tried, but we only knew
what we knew.
The group of people working on Y2K (some from the 60's) have tapped into
some new ways of looking at process and its relation to how we choose to
act. From reading your article, it occurs to me that you might have
missed the latter parts of each day when the group ORGANIZED ITSELF into
work groups and informational meetings.
What many of us have found fascinating about the impact of "Y2K"
it has served to bring people together to discuss hopes and dreams as
strong and visionary as any addressed in the 60's, but with a much
clearer sense of working towards something rather than against something.
The process is informed by decades of learning how to work in
collaboration. It is supported by skills and knowledge about process and
outcome cross fertilized from the business community, consultant groups
and private sectors. The movement finds strange bedfellows with
activists working together with city managers, police chiefs, and
There is a strong hope here that things, in fact, will not stay the same
after Y2K. There is a strong sense that this is an opportunity for our
whole society to learn something new together. At a meeting I was at
recently, it was voiced that this will feel like a failure if nothing
changes after Y2K. Y2K is a "hopeful apocalypse".