It’s 5:45pm CDT on the final day of the CiviCRM St Louis conference and I’ve been walking for almost two hours, I have no clue where I am. I know I set off in the opposite direction to my hotel and I know I left the conference before it finished but I really didn’t think this through.
So what drove me to walk with the pure aim of just walking, akin to a mini TV version of Forest Gump?
Well, it’s simple and complicated. I haven’t been to a CiviCRM conference in the USA for a couple of years and was feeling a bit disconnected to the community, hence I decided to jump on a plane and try to restore some of the “love” as well as work through some functional design we’re planning on working on back in the UK. It’s been great to see the community members and catch up, as well as have some comfort knowing a lot of the early troopers are still involved, albeit maturer in their approaches. It’s been a great couple of days. But, after the lightning talks on day 2, I found myself going back to day one and the keynote by Matt Thompson (@OpenMatt), why am I involved in the CiviCRM community? What is our mission at Veda Consulting, our purpose?
Funnily enough we’ve spent the past 6 months ensuring all the staff at Veda understand what our mission is and why we are here. It was reassuring to hear Matt echo the importance of establishing a mission that is inspirational, not just financially driven. When I setup Veda Consulting, my aim was always to create an entity that gave back, not just as a gesture but as a core value, part of its mission if you like. Over 6 years later, here we are defining the vision, being rejuvenated with renewed belief that what we do does matter and makes a difference. Running a company is not an easy thing to do, especially when your ethos dictates that you’re not about the bottom line. For years now we’ve flirted with the thin line between profit and loss, a battle I often refer to as “The force” v “The Dark side”. Explaining our business model to anyone outside of the open source world often ends with confused looks and the ultimate question “then why do you…..”. The premise that we have a for profit business whose primary aim is not to make a profit is baffling, a contradiction and a very difficult conversation with the accountant on a monthly basis. It’s lost on people who are wired to run businesses, who will always ask “But what’s in it for me?” before they ask “What impact will this have on the world?”. I feel lucky that my natural reaction is always the latter, not that there is anything wrong with the first but to me, the understanding that I won't be here forever is enough to know that it’s not what we have when we leave that matters but what we’ve done and the legacy we leave behind, much like Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare. The downside to my mindset is the tiring nature of having to keep the beancounters happy, bouncing around the bottom line like a rollercoaster, it all takes it toll and makes you wonder why you are even here. So we circle back to the keynote and back to the basic questions. That is where the power of the community can really help and power you up for the next few years; from Matt’s keynote on engaging everyone including our own (staff),to Josh sharing his CiviCRM journey, and right through to seeing that almost half the audience were first time CiviCon attendees; it all adds to the power bank and we end up with enough energy to walk. And walk I did, it was a walk driven by rejuvenation in the cause, knowing that I had to harness the energy and focus my mind. There was a lot of voices in the lightning talks, comments, questions, mullings and insight. It was getting a bit too much for my brain to process and in that instant I decided to let my legs do the talking, now back at the hotel having found a metro station I’ve managed to put pen to paper on what happened, in the hope that others can see that conferences aren’t just for the newbies, they can help everyone involved including me, a seasoned CiviCon veteran. I’ll end with our mission and vision statements, which sums up Veda Consulting and what we’re trying to do and a big thank you to all those involved in the CiviCRM community;
Our mission is: “Empowering charities to have the furthest reach across the world by providing shared and open solutions” with a vision of “A world where every charity will reach their goal and create a better society”.