Julian Dobson wrote a first-rate post last week on the struggle to keep the Our Society network going, reflecting on the viability of sustained action in such spaces generally.
But from where I sit, as someone who might have had something to contribute but knew from the outset that I’d not have the time to do so, Julian’s title, ‘When networks fail’, seems too negative: on what terms did it ‘fail’?
I certainly thought it was ambitiously broad-based, and I wouldn’t have expected it to thrive for years. Ambition is good, broad-based is good. I’m sure some people ‘discovered’ Our Society and made valuable connections or gained huge reassurance that they were not isolated; others got information or ideas checked out. And spin-off mini-networks will have been born or refreshed as a consequence.
Maybe Our Society will settle down as a little link-pad for the ethos it promotes. Energy has flared from it, now it's dimmed but other planets may be forming.
We simply know too little about the legacy of such efforts, making the same mistake that people in the Organisation Age did. If the evolution of our thinking is tied too closely to a name representing something highly organised (a body or a profession, a corporation, a discipline…), when the growth of that body falters, we might think our evolution has stopped. In a time of drift, go with the energy. We will have failed when we believe that drift is failure; and when we stop being ambitious.
At the end of his post Julian wryly quotes Beckett, so I can’t resist offering another quote from the master: ‘I can’t stop. I can’t go on. Let’s see what happens next.’