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Zaadz - Virtual Community Takes in New Meaning
One of the fastest growing areas in cyberspace is the emergence of social networksMySpace and Facebook come to mind. Wikipedia defines these networks as a social structure made of nodes (generally individuals or organizations) that are connected by one or more specific types of relations. Now comes Zaadz, intentionally giving social networking some value-added meaning and purpose. Recently we had a chance to interview Siona van Dijk, the Synchronicity Coordinator for Zaadz.
By the time you read this, Alternatives Magazine will have joined Zaadz to expand its readership, create a forum for discussions and build community through social networking. We will offer readers a free newsletter subscription where timely topics will be sent to you.
You are invited to visit us at http://alternatives.zaadz.com/. Consider networking with the community.
For a start, explain your job title, Synchronicity Coordinator.
The title Synchronicity Coordinator is a tongue-in-cheek reminder that acknowledges the role coincidence and connection play in the work place. I’m sure anyone who has been in business for a while would confess readily that they’d never have been able to predict the trajectory that got them to where they are todaymy title is a nod to that fact.
What is Zaadz?
How did Zaadz come into existence, and how did it become what it is today?
What does Zaadz do?
What does Zaadz have to offer that other social networking places such as MySpace and Facebook don’t?
How can Zaadz lure people away from virtual reality into a place of action? Is it really possible to change the world through dialog? Or is this more an illusion of change than real substantive change?
For me, lifeand changing the worldis about practice. I see Zaadz as providing a community of practice, an oasis of people committed to learning from each other, and learning what it means to speak and act and react from a place of peace and compassion. I’ve found that no matter how dedicated I am to understanding and true connection with otherseven those I don’t see eye-to-eye withit can be hard sometimes when everything else in my environment feels bleak or angry. The more I spend time with those who can model what it means to stay true to myself and my own commitment to peace and appreciation, the easier it is for me to act that way in all areas of my lifeeven when things are difficult. And so I’ve found Zaadz to be wonderfully beneficial for this reason; it’s something I’m able to “carry with me,” in some sense, wherever I go.
And when it comes to dialog... well, I know that I, personally, have been deeply transformed through these conversations. There’s something about connecting with another human being, halfway around the world, and having them impact me in such a way that I question my beliefs, or expand my ability to empathize or take the place of another. And when I think of thousands and millions of these little individual transformations occurring, and catalyzing other transformations in turn, this, to me, feels world-changing.
I don’t know. Sometimes our mission seems grandiose, and other times it feels so humble! One of the things that I love about Zaadz is that a little note from a strangerfrom Germany, let’s saycan put a smile on my face in the morning, and this impacts my entire day. I’m more inclined to talk to my neighbors, to not be upset by the traffic, to actually connect with that otherwise-invisible person begging on the street, to respond kindly to things that might otherwise upset me... it sounds so small, but again, the collective power of these little gestures, to my mind, makes a real difference.
How do we move beyond preaching to the choir?
We’re not interested in arguing a point or trying to force others to adopt our passions; what we’d rather do is provide a model of success and satisfaction that’s attractive, so that others want it... and so that they’ll come and ask, instead, how they can create a similarly fulfilling life.
Considering the distribution of wealth in the world, aren’t we excluding a large segment of the population. How can we reach the less privileged?
Speaking more seriously, though, I feel that what we’re doing with conscious capitalismthat is, encouraging people to break from the daily grind, to find out what they lovebe it writing or accounting or building houses or serving others or cooking or organizing or creating new technologiesand to DO that, is a way of changing the distribution of wealth.
Because one of the things that characterizes conscious capitalism is the CIRCULATION of money. If I love what I’m doingif I’m living a life that’s fulfillingwhy on earth would I want to stockpile money? I’d rather spend it on services and people and projects that I care about, because I’m not storing it up for some imagined future. I’m living my life NOW. So again, by inspiring and empowering people to make a living doing what they love, we’re helping our society as a whole ease away from that sense that we need to stockpile or hoard, and to participate more in community.
Conscious capitalism seems to be an important theme for Zaadz. How did this come about? What is its premise?
Of course, discovering one’s “seed” is only part of the story. Once you find your purpose, your callingwhat it is you love to dowe believe the next step is to go about making a living by doing just that. Again, whether your passion is caring for people by being a doctor, or demonstrating your ingenuity and love of mechanics by working with cars, or playing with ideas and engineering new technologies, there’s a place for you. And this is one route into the idea of conscious capitalism.
Because conscious capitalism involves aligning your personal values with the ‘value’ you carry in your wallet. It’s about making money in a way that doesn’t cause you to compromise what you believe in, and it’s about spending money in the same way. After all, it’s just as possible to start from the other sideby researching products and practices that are in alignment with what we care about, so we know our money is going to support sustainable ventures and people and companies that don’t harm the Earth and that value their employees and the community of which they’re a part. Both approaches are based in the same idea: that notion of being aware of how we make and spend our money, and making sure that our check book accurately reflects what we care about.
So to sum up, the market is a necessaryor at least, valuable!aspect of human interaction, and conscious capitalism merely entails bringing a certain awareness to the marketplace, and valuing the human and planetary connection that our dollars represent.
Individuals use social networking like Zaadz or MySpace to communicate around all kind of issues and personal interests. How do you envision the dynamics changing when whole networks like Zaadz’s members and Alternatives readers and advertisers meet in cyberspace?
Considering the possibility of rapid growth, how confident are you that you can provide the infrastructure to meet this expansion?
Currently it would appear that a vast majority of the people in the world are unaware or unconcerned with issues of sustainability, cooperation vs. competition, etc. From the perspective of Zaadz, are you hopeful that a growing percentage of people are coming to care about these issues and willing to do something about it?
Well, the site’s been growing rapidly, so from our point of view, interest is definitely growing. I think just looking around at what’s been making the news these daysfrom overwhelming interest in green and sustainable living to the comfort people have in talking about spirituality and meaning in their work to the number of Baby Boomers who are looking to contribute to the world and the Gen-Xers who are realizing that they want jobs that matter to the young people who have a definite interest in making sure our planet continues to be a livable placethat it’s obvious the number of people who are investigating their values and discovering that they share a philosophy compatible with the one we have at Zaadz is growing.
And I’d actually suggest that the majority of people DO care about these things! It might not be what the mainstream media reports, but I’ve found that when I look at my personal experience, and when I think about the people I talk to on a daily basis, I find that it’s rare that I meet anyone who doesn’t care about these things. It might take a little time, but I’ve discovered that, overwhelmingly, we do share a similar set of core desires. Most of us want to make a differencewe want lives that have meaning, and we yearn for fulfillment and satisfaction. We want to find and pursue our calling, and to be appreciated for what we have to offer the world. So while these deep concerns might get colored over by the distractions of our day-to-day lives, they are still THERE. And the more we can do to encourage conversation about and awareness of these deep cares, the better the world will be for all of us.
Is there one more question you wish we’d asked?
Anyway. Because we understand the importance of the practical nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship and owning a small business, we created a series of tools and practices to support the practice. Some people see big business as threatening to the small onesbut we don’t see this as being true at all! Small companies have something to offer that larger corporations struggle with; namely, the ability to build one-on-one, meaningful, personal relationships with the people they serve. And so what we’ve done with zPro is created a fleet of features designed to emphasize this strength. Our newsletter 2.0 (the first newsletter on the market to include social media) helps entrepreneurs build micro-communities around their businessesand allows for relationship-driven marketing.
Again, for me, this is one of those wonderfully win-win endeavors. I, personally, would much rather buy from and frequent those stores and service-providers that I knowI’d much rather know my dollars are going to feed a family in my neighborhood, or to support the venture of someone in my community whose values I share. And so I can’t help but love that, with Zaadz, and with zPro in particular, we’re rekindling some of those authentic connections, and helping small business owners to enter into those niches and nooks where big business doesn’t fit.
You asked earlier on about action. Anna Lappe, an activist I admire, once said that every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the world you want. I have a deep appreciation for the power of business when it comes to shaping the future, and our lives, and so I’m both confident and excited that Zaadzour entire communityis going to have a significant impact in the world.
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Siona flits between the interior and exterior of the Zaadz community; she’s responsible for everything from relationship development to community cultivation and corporate communications. An avid traveler, runner, and writer, as well as a long-time practitioner of various mindfulness disciplines, Siona’s odder passions include systems thinking, organizational dynamics, and the endless interplay between order and chaos. She takes her work seriously, but laughs at herself.
You can reach Siona at: http://siona.zaadz.com/
To join the Alternatives community on Zaadz, or to sign up for our free newsletter, please visit us at http://alternatives.zaadz.com/
Peter Moore is Editor of Alternatives Magazine, also Business Director of Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat & Conference Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Werner Brandt is owner of Netforest, Inc., a computer consulting firm. He spends much of his time offering his services to organizations working for a sustainable future. He writes a blog at http://dharmaseeds.org/ and can be reached at email@example.com. You may reach Werner at: http://dharmaseeds.zaadz.com/.
Site updated Fall 09