Create Baltimore: An Organizer’s Perspective

When I was invited to be on the planning committee for Create Baltimore, I was honored and beyond excited.  Honored to work with some of the most prominent people on the Baltimore tech/social change scenes and excited be a big part of something that caters to the creative community here.

At first glance, Create Baltimore might appear to be just another event focused on making the city a better place.  It’s easy to make the assumption that an event like this could possibly be a lot more talk than action.  If I’ve learned anything about Baltimore in the short time I’ve been back it’s this: Baltimore is bold.  People don’t hold back.  They put themselves, their opinions and ideas out there.  And those are the kinds of people we wanted at CB.

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First roundtable

“The goal is to start and sustain conversations around shared interests between people who might not otherwise get to know each other. Conversation leads to trust, trust leads to action, and this all takes time. Create Baltimore 1, 2, and 3 serves as a good first (or second) step in that process,” explained CB cofounder Dave Troy.  

The planning committee for CB3 consisted of eight local movers and shakers, each bringing something different to the table, all with the same goal in mind.  Once logistics were hashed out, we kept a strong focus on diversifying participants.  Committee member Tracy Gold said, “It was great to see the original four take advice from prior years and open up the organizing team. I think that helped us bring a more diverse audience, and I don’t just mean racially. We drew from different circles and networks because of the increased number of people with a vested interest.”

Since CB is an un-conference, the day was a bit unorganized and hectic at times.  It always worked to our advantage though, as participants were to set the stage and organize the day.  The morning session introduced ideas and opened the floor up for topic suggestions. Each topic was then broke up into 50 minute sessions in various break out rooms.  If attendees weren’t interested in participating in any of the scheduled discussions, they hung out in the anarchy room.  If discussions ran over the allotted time and were making progress, they flowed over to the action labs later in the afternoon. Some topics: Crowdsourcing Social Change, Urban Gardening and Farming, Inclusivity and Diversity, Evil Plans 2013: What’s Brewing in Baltimore?, Arts Patronage, Robot City, 3D Printing and Local Manufacturing, Advancing Youth Employment, and Reinvent Transit.

“In highlighting our experiment with the action labs, we did not know what success looked like,” explained CB cofounder Scott Burkholder, “but as far as results: we had people choose to talk about creating instead of just ideas. The labs show a fault in un-conference structure in that it is hard to move from conversation to doing. We’ve known that the balance between grassroots movement and greater infrastructure is challenging, but the labs show at least an interest in continuing to flirt with it.”

Inside the Digital & Racial Divide via @datkidcarpediem

Inside the Digital & Racial Divide via @datkidcarpediem

And flirt with it we did.   I was amazed at the passionate participation bouncing off the walls in the breakout rooms and action labs.  People were on all levels of several different topics.  Whether they were slightly interested or highly involved, everyone was sharing ideas and making connections.

One discussion in particular had flowed over from the Reinvent Transit session to an action lab.  At the center of the conversation were Mike Brenner and Caroline Peri, organizers of Reinvent Transit, a weekend-long event and hackathon that took place last weekend at Betamore.

“A big part of that conversation centered around how we, as private citizens, can help make transit more accessible and user-friendly as well as advocate for better transportation options around Baltimore,” explained Caroline. ”This challenge really resonated with me personally, and we’ve kept those comments in mind when planning the content and schedule for Reinvent Transit and its desired outcomes.”

So what did I get out of Create Baltimore?  Exactly what I expected and more.  I learned a lot, made some friends, connected some dots, and found myself even more excited than I originally was when I signed up.  I’m excited about Baltimore… excited to be surrounded with the boldness that’s here and those who are making moves.  I’m excited to know that the passionate ideas we Baltimoreans share in making our city a better place are making progress and I’m honored to be a part of it.  It feels good to be here, Hon.

So what did you get out of Create Baltimore?   Anything you didn’t get to talk about?  Let us know in the comments below or tell me in an email and I’ll pass it along: sarah@viminteractive.com  It’ll make our day!

Follow the story that is #createbmore here at the Create Baltimore 3 Storify and check out our previous blog post After Create Baltimore- Let’s keep going.

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