OPINION

Who says that we can't change the world?

Who says that we can't change the world?

One of the things about a global upheaval is that afterwards, things once taken for granted suddenly have to be justified.

Take conferences, for example.

I've been running the Communities in Control conference, aimed at the not-for-profit sector, for 18 years now.

Yet I haven't asked myself the big question for nearly two decades: why am I doing this?

As conferences go, this is good as it gets.

There hasn't been a year since we started that I wouldn't have been glad to swap our panel of speakers for the cabinet of the day.

This year, for example, we have Grace Tame, Penny Wong, Uncle Jack Charles, Hugh Mackay, Jess Hill - it goes on.

The people who come enjoy it, are informed and say they're inspired. It's not a big earner, but even in tough years it breaks even - sometimes.

I have to ask, though: is that good enough?

Does it justify, collectively, spending more than a year of my life on it?

There are two possible flaws in the picture.

One is that old-school conferences may have been overtaken by technology.

Having actual bodies in the same room, being talked at by a breathing meatsack - isn't that a bit Neanderthal?

Are we going to be swept away by the irresistible tide of iPhoneisation that's eliminating whole sectors of the economy?

It's not as if we haven't tried.

Last year the conference was all-online, without a coffee cart, vegan sandwich or a beer between us.

It worked well enough - and people enjoyed it, were informed and said they were inspired.

The talks were of a high quality. I was afraid people wouldn't hang on through a whole hour, but I was wrong.

It was much easier for interstaters to attend than before, which is important.

So, why not leave it there?

The other possible drawback is we've been pointing the way forward for 18 years and we are, nonetheless, where we are.

Our communitarian ideals are still dismissed by Canberra as sentimental utopianism.

We've tried evidence, logic, and persuasion - what will it take? Well, more of the same.

The historian and sociologist Max Weber once defined politics as "a strong and slow boring of hard boards".

The public mind can shift, and has shifted.

Coffee does promote the exchange of opinion, and even the changing of minds, and conferences do make strange lunchfellows.

New links emerge. New alliances are generated. New possibilities open up.

We're not bigoted. This year's conference from May 17-18 is a hybrid.

If you can't come to Melbourne in person, you can link up online.

Are we getting the best of both worlds, or watering both forms down?

Let's try the experiment. I'm optimistic. That's why I do it.

Denis Moriarty is group managing director of OurCommunity.com.au

This story Who says that we can't change the world? first appeared on The Canberra Times.