hoos

(online)

Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

the parley: a consideration

The Parley was an idea originally conceived by my friends Max Aetheling and Ally Behnke. I can't say what it meant to them or what it meant to the people we connected because in truth it meant something different to us all, but I can tell you what it was for me. The Parley was a cultural accelerator. Like a startup accelerator uses venture capital funds to supercharge ideas for new businesses, we aimed to use our social capital and connections to supercharge and catalyze new creative projects.

We created events that brought together people from the worlds of art, technology, and urban design to discuss cutting edge ideas from all those worlds, and to get to know one another. I hoped for something like the Medici effect--something wonderful emerging from cross-pollination.

At Redesign DC we put on lightning talks by people involved with some of the most inspiring projects in the District. We listened to and learned from the people like the founders of ArtAround.us & iStrategy Labs, forward-thinking leaders like Philip Auerswald, and innovative artists like Corwin Levi & the Albus Calvus collective.

At One-Hour Magazine, a frenetic event that Ally has resurrected and continues to put on today, we created a welcoming atmosphere for collective creativity so that people could express themselves together. Our resulting irregular publication, featuring speedily-created art from acclaimed artists and avowed uncreatives, broke down barriers to entry for creativity and encouraged innovative thinking in a community setting.

Along with the above, during my tenure as Interactive Director we produced underground electronic music performances, programmed artspaces, and worked to connect people and their ideas to one another. Before my arrival there were salons at embassies, panels on futurism, and a rather infamous "foil party."

I came to believe in the project of The Parley largely because Max is brilliant. When after months of whirlwind work he needed a break, it was well deserved. Then I got a bit distracted, and things moved from there.

In the end, I think, we all went back from whence we came.

Max has gone from One-Hour Magazine-inspired beginnings to being a cutting-edge collage artist whose work is on display and in demand in his communities. His thinking on the meaning of technology for our lives has evolved considerably, and I miss those long conversations perhaps most of all.

Ally has, along with the 1HR Mag revival, continued to focus on questions of urban design and continues to plan brilliantly conceived events that bring in young creatives in the District.

And I'm still trying to create connections between diverse communities to make extraordinary things happen. I'm just doing it a little more directly than I used to. Digital is great, and I'm working more deeply than ever to use analytical insights for more successful message targeting, but I've learned the truth of the old adage that direct action gets the goods.

But there are days when I miss the Parley, and I'm grateful for what it taught me about myself.

We did a lot of wonderful things--sometimes things I thought were absolutely insane--but in the end they were all things worth doing. All the people I came to know were people worth knowing. All the work we did was work worth being proud of.