What We've Done & Learned So Far:
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
By David Sunfellow
(The following article first appeared in a special report called, "Y2K: Visions & Visionaries." Along with serving as the Director of the Sedona Y2K Task Force, David is also the President & Founder of NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE), which currently publishes a weekly Y2K report along with special reports like the one mentioned above. David wrote the following article to help his online readership organize Y2K grassroots efforts in their part of the world.)
Sunday, January 3, 1999
Like many others who have been struggling to understand and do something about Y2K, I've been busy in Sedona trying to organize our local community. It's a job I never imagined I would ever be doing that revolves around a subject I knew nothing about a year ago.
The process I went through is straightforward enough: We researched Y2K, discovered it was a serious threat, and responded. Because my work was primarily focused on the Internet, the national/international levels were tackled first: we organized a team of online researchers and built a website to database our discoveries. But it didn't take long to realize that Y2K was going to affect my family, friends, and local community. And since no one else, as far as I knew, was doing anything about Y2K in Sedona, the task fell to me and those who were working with me online.
The first thing I did was contact the Y2K Task Force in Medford, Oregon which had staged the country's first city-wide Y2K meeting. I found out from them how they had organized, how many people were involved in their organization, and what their current activities were. I also asked for suggestions about how to organize our community. Then I contacted our local city government. I learned that Sedona, unlike most cities in the U.S., had a person in charge of their Y2K efforts. Unfortunately, her efforts were largely limited to upgrading PCs and traffic lights and there was little awareness of the larger, more serious implications of Y2K (the potential loss of food, water, power, communications, etc., and possibility of worldwide disruptions). My early exchanges with the city were polite, but since Y2K was not being viewed as a major threat to Sedona (or any other part of the country for that matter), the city had little interest in stirring up the populace.
Realizing I couldn't count on city officials to educate and mobilize Sedona, I decided to follow Medford's lead and organize a grassroots response. I contacted the members of our online team who lived in or around Sedona and began organizing a meeting of friends, and friends of friends. We invited the people we knew the best and trusted the most to a private meeting to let them know what we had found out about Y2K. We also asked them to invite friends who might be interested. Then we rented a space that could accommodate a hundred people, passed out flyers to remind everyone where and when the meeting would be, set out some cookies and tea, and waited for the room to fill up. All together, 19 people showed up, six of whom were staff people. Although it was a disappointing turnout, almost everyone who came ended up joining our efforts.
Insight Number One:
Someone Needs to Lead the Charge
For those of you who are interested in organizing Y2K efforts in your part of the world, here's my first pointer: someone has to lead the charge. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have others who were willing to help, but unless I took the lead, nothing would have happened. I had to act without having all the answers and wade into areas (like city government) that I normally wouldn't have. What motivated me was knowing that Y2K was a serious threat that needed to be addressed. If no one is working to educate and mobilize your part of the world -- and if you care about the welfare of your family, friends, and community -- then the task may fall to you.
After this first meeting, we organized follow-up meetings, joined forces with others in our community that were interested in Y2K, and a natural sorting process began: new people showed up, old people fell away, and a solid core group began to emerge. The most difficult part of this process was forming a cohesive group with a clear vision. We had to decide how we were going to make decisions, what we wanted to achieve as a group, and who was going to do what. One of the most important steps in this process for me was realizing that I had to continue to provide leadership. Since I wasn't sure my efforts to educate and mobilize Sedona went beyond getting things started, I wasn't sure what my role in the emerging group would be. Moreover, I was more interested in working online and galvanizing the NHNE membership, than working in Sedona planting gardens, dealing with city governments, and speaking to local audiences. To complicate matters, none of us, including me, wanted to work in a hierarchical group with some people designated as leaders and others as followers. We all saw ourselves as equals and insisted on a round table environment.
After struggling with this for weeks, and watching our group flounder in the resulting confusion, two things finally became clear:
1. Like it or not, I needed to provide leadership for our group.
2. Until I did, we weren't going to get anywhere.
Once I realized this, everything started falling in place. A name for our group was decided upon, a mission statement was created, specific roles and job descriptions were defined, and we started charting how we were going to fire up our local community.
Insight Number Two:
Round Tables Have Leaders Too
For some reason, all of the people that have ended up in leadership roles on our task force have strong spiritual backgrounds, which includes a fundamental belief in medicine-wheel-style organizations: different people, with different strengths and perspectives, joining together as equals to accomplish a specific task. How does leadership operate in such a group? What I've learned is that everyone provides leadership in their respective areas. But the group, as a whole, also has a leader, whether that leader is publicly acknowledged or not. A healthy group acknowledges the need for one person to provide leadership for the group as a whole. And a healthy leader understands that he/she fills only one space in the circle and requires the feedback and support of all the other positions to effectively lead.
Now that our group was up and running, we launched a series of projects: we developed materials and organized meetings to educate our local community about Y2K, brought in well-known Y2K speakers to drive home the information we presented, helped our city and local community service organizations stage panel discussions, started organizing neighborhood preparedness programs, created several exploration teams to find out how Sedona would be affected by potential Y2K disturbances, acquired a centrally-locally office space to meet and work in, and visited other communities and city governments in our area to help them do the same. Many of these activities are databased on The Sedona Y2K Task Force Website:
From the beginning, I have felt that an effective response to Y2K would hinge on two things: we would need to educate and mobilize our local community; and we would need to connect with other communities all over the world so we could learn from one another's efforts, share resources, and stay reliably informed about all aspects of Y2K.
We've been very fortunate in Sedona to have both of these bases covered. NHNE has been busy gathering information and resources from all over the world that has been put to work by our local task force, which, in turn, has pumped what we've learned back into the global bloodstream to be assimilated by others and returned again with new insights.
Insight Number Three:
When Things Get Touch, The Tough Work Together
The two-pronged approach I've outlined above is extremely important. Y2K is such an enormous, overwhelming, unpredictable problem that we need to be able to tap everyone's talents and learn from one another's experience. All local groups, in my opinion, should establish clear connections with the global community, and the global community needs to establish clear connections with local groups. The free flow of information, discoveries, experience, and resources will, in the end, probably be the most important asset we have to deal with whatever fallout comes from Y2K -- and other threats that might challenge our race in the future.
Eight More Suggestions:
Finally, here are eight more suggestions that have helped us organize our local task force and community.
1. Don't waste time trying to convince public officials that Y2K is a problem. Instead, provide them with a steady stream of current, credible, well-sourced information, and keep them posted on your efforts to organize a grassroots response. If they respond to your overtures, great, work with them. If they don't, that's great, too, because once they realize how serious Y2K is, you, and the organization you've helped build, will be the ones they turn to for help.
2. Treat the people and organizations who provide you with power, water, food, money, and other basic necessities the same way you treat public officials: be nice, and work with them if they are willing. In the meantime, don't kid yourself, and don't allow them to kid you: no matter how well prepared they say they are, there is still a chance their services won't be available. Because of this, you, and your community, should pursue off-the-grid backup plans.
3. Encourage others to prepare for Y2K by buying a little extra food, and setting aside a little extra cash, a little at a time. There is still enough time for everyone to prepare if it is done responsibly. If, however, too many people start buying large quantities of supplies, we could bring the entire system down prematurely which, in turn, would make things far worse than they might otherwise be.
4. While storing life's basic necessities at little at a time, also look for ways to grow your own food and supply your own water. If the supply chain is disrupted for any length of time, all kinds of packaged/processed goods will be very difficult to get, and there will be extraordinary demand for whatever is available. Those who can provide for their own basic needs, and help provide for the basic needs of others, will be in a much better position than those who are relying on packaged goods that need to be replenished.
5. If you, or those you love don't have the means to buy extra food, water and other necessities right now, do what you can to prepare in other ways. Get educated about Y2K and self-sufficiency. Strengthen your personal relationships. Get to know your neighbors. Pray. Exercise. Improve and simplify your diet. Lighten your load by budgeting your time more carefully and getting rid of unnecessary material possessions. Ponder the emotional ramifications of Y2K and work through your fears. Help organize your local community. If there is anyone on this mailing list who should be physically prepared for Y2K disruptions, it's me. But I haven't had enough money to buy the resources I need to take care of my family. I have, however, had the ability to educate and mobilize my community and spread the word via NHNE. My hope, and motivating belief, is that everyone will be taken care of who does what they can to be of service to others.
6. In terms of local organizations and projects, figure out what needs to be done and then use whomever shows up to do it. If no one shows up for a particular job, then consider the possibility it doesn't need to be done. Also, do everything you can to turn people loose on the projects that interest them. In my view, one of the best guidance systems we have is who spirit sends to us and what those who show up carry in their hearts. Use this, more than carefully crafted plans, to determine what really needs to be done, and by whom. And don't try and do everything yourself. Do what you feel most called to do, then delegate, empower others, and leave the million jobs that never get done up to God.
7. When conflicts arise (and you can be sure they will), remind everyone involved that human beings have been designed to see things from different vantage points. This is a good thing. There are many different ways to see and solve every problem. After reminding everyone that differences of perspective are good, give each person a chance to fully share their perspective and do everything you can to be sure their perspective is fully heard and understood. Since most conflicts are based on people not hearing or understanding another person's perspective, most conflicts will end right here. But if they don't, and it becomes clear that honest differences of opinion can't be bridged, then find ways for them to work apart. Empower each person to express their particular perspective. Remember that challenging and/or forcing others to adopt a path they don't agree with doesn't help anyone. It creates animosity, hard feelings and distrust among everyone involved. Empowering others, on the other hand, engenders respect, good will, and a willingness on everyone's part to cooperate and consider other perspectives.
8. And, finally, remember that Y2K is a passing phenomenon, as are all other events that fill our short lives on planet Earth. What lasts are our relationships with one another and the way we have lived our lives. Bottomline: do everything you can, in every moment you live, to be kind, sensitive, thoughtful, considerate, and loving towards those you are in relationship with. All of us can get our way a little while by running over others, but this kind of behavior doesn't produce the kind of happy families, meaningful groups, and loving societies that we all seek.
So that's a little bit about how the Sedona Y2K Task Force came to be, what we've been doing, and how you can help the communities you are a part of prepare for Y2K.
Since we still have a great deal of work to do in Sedona, I don't know how our story will unfold from here. From having talked with the leaders of other Y2K grassroots movements, I do know that many Y2K efforts are having a rough time organizing themselves and their communities. Some of the problems they are having are universal -- poor attendance at public events, little support from public officials, lack of funds, burnout, poor leadership, not enough people to do everything that needs to be done -- while other problems are unique to their particular area and group of people. This notwithstanding, there are also some marvelous success stories.
I hope our efforts in Sedona, and your efforts wherever you may be, are the latter -- and both myself and NHNE will continue to do everything we can to be sure to stack the odds in favor of success.
In future updates, I will introduce some of the other talented members of our task force and let them tell you what they've done and learned.
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