A modest proposal:
Have you ever gone to an herbalist conference? I have!
Have you ever felt lost and alone at an herbal conference? I sure have!
Have you ever wished someone would solve this problem? I have–times 1,000.
I love events such as classes, conferences, herb swaps and community celebrations. But many times I have felt like a molecule in a sea of atoms, wandering around trying to figure out how people make friends. I have practiced and now I have the ability to randomly inflict myself on other people. But crap, it’s still hard sometimes.
I would love to help solve this problem for others!
I propose that organizers of events finagle a Special Social Operative to help bring people together and create the best possible space for events.
This person would ideally be a dialogue facilitator, an introducer, a bridger of gaps and a destroyer of social barriers. An emotional logistics coordinator who can take the social temperature of individuals as well as the group and distribute hugs, nervines and directions to the bathroom as needed.
This person (could be more than one person, actually) could help create a space for blowing off steam in between classes, plan check-ins or movement breaks and help mediate misunderstandings.
They would ideally be armed with Very Clear Signs, a bunch of fun icebreaker-type games to help us reduce our social inhibitions and create connections and a big ol’ box of toys–for example, I have one of those big gym-class parachutes, some jump ropes, balls that bounce in all kinds of silly directions, art supplies and some obstacle course props.
Planners may also consider adopting the system currently used at some Neurodiversity conferences where people who’d like to be approached display a green card, and those who want cheerful social coordinators to back the heck off display red.
We now generally abandon all of this to the commons, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever felt left out.
I think that by including a social operative in our event planning we can encourage some team-building and bonding, creating a more intimate event which feels even more fun than ever. It could also take some of the pressure off of organizers, who may have “actual business” to attend to.
I would love to help develop this role, putting my hard-won skills to use, and I look forward to conversations that can be created around making it happen.