Since the "kick-off" 1st of May I have been thinking on how to proceed with the dairy network. I had it all neatly planned and thought out: if no-one would volunteer to co-develop the network I would phone some "allies" to invite them to help me think out the ´design´ and organise a first meeting. But I didn´t.
Writing the last post helped me discover why I couldn´t bring myself to actually do so. I feel that even "allies" have not discovered the potential of this network and the ICT possibilities. Consequently, I would probably still be putting in most thinking. There are very few, if any, who ever get work done by email, so design and organization work would imply travel. So probably it will cost less energy to try and get going with the whole group than to work in two stages, first the allies and than the rest.
But how to get going? I considered the tips and advice from knowledgeable sources: to try and get participants to email more lightheartedly by introducing games, like emails of only three words. Or to introduce subjects they would engage in more easily, like the upcoming soccer World Cup. But then, that would reconfirm the prejudice of some that email is only for babble.
Instead, I did something capricious. I noticed that a company for cow nutrition from Belgium is organizing a meeting on the 30th this month for their clients. Our email group at present holds 40 farms (many more than their clients) but is definitely of interest to them as potential clients. I had once, briefly, met the nutritionist and he struck me as quite knowledgeable and not the typical vendor type. So I phoned him and asked him to act as a guest in our email group. My idea is to introduce him on the blog/site, and then to initiate dialog between him and the group on the emailgroup.
Now why does it feel capricious? I want the dairy network to be a CoP, not just a commercial platform and certainly not an easy entrance for companies to sell more. I want farmers to be demanding, to be ´on the wheel´, not companies. I want the network to be self-financing and independent: a way to transform information into knowledge. Companies, if given access at all, should be genuinly interested to jointly develop knowledge.
An alternative option (not preferred by me, although the possibilities for financial rewards seem much shinier) is to be a commercial platform, a broker for (commercial) contacts. In that case, both farm members and supplying companies should pay to be given access to the network.
For either option I could be going the wrong direction: I am giving the network away to commerce before it even exist, and what´s worse, for free!
I haven´t decided yet whether or not to combine our meetings. There is a certain need for us to have a meeting, to keep up any momentum gained on the kick-off. Timing, location, the subject of the presentation and the lunch planned: the company´s meeting seems perfectly planned. Piggy-back or not?