Solutions Volume 3

I have a present for you: it’s a blog post that isn’t about the RNC!

This last weekend, I was invited to attend an event called Solutions Volume 3. The idea was to have a bunch of Twin Cities-based speakers give six-minute-forty-second talks on what they are doing to make the world better. “Great,” I thought, “Hippie Fest 2008.” But I was given free cover and was promised beer, so I couldn’t just skip it. And yes, it kind of was Hippie Fest 2008. But not in the way I thought it would be.

First of all, the event was, according to the email I received:

going to use the space at Intermedia Arts like nobody else ever has. The main program will take place in the Intermedia Arts parking lot, where we will seat about 350. Overflow seating for 120 will be provided in the theater where we will be streaming live video of the event outdoors. This will also be streamed into the lobby/ cafe area for those who’d like to enjoy the event in a less formal setting. The whole facility will be abuzz during the event, providing space for roughly 500 people to experience the event in a multitude of different ways.

At first I rolled my eyes at this, but then I realized the potential: the event is taking place outside so people can enjoy the weather (which was absolutely perfect), but there is also space inside set aside for discussing the ideas (or anything else, really) at the same time as the talks are going on without bothering your fellow audience members. That is a really clever idea.

And I was really looking forward to taking advantage of that (especially as an observer), because I was not only interested in the presentations, but in the reaction of the audience. Unfortunately, this is what awaited me in both indoor spaces for the entire program:

Indoor Seating
Indoor Mingling Space

This was a huge bummer. It also glaringly points out that nowhere near 500 people showed up. But it should be pointed out that this is the first year they’ve done it with this setup, so that can be forgiven. Besides, they reached just about 300, enough to fill up the outdoor seating. It did not ruin the event at all!

There were lots of cool things outside. My favorite was a special phone number you could send a text message to and have your text message projected onto the side of a building. Not surprisingly, people used it to voice their political beliefs:

Text Wall

But the award for Most Hilarious Text on the Wall goes to whoever texted “a/s/l”. Classic!

I’m not sure if it was intended to be this way or not, but once they got the text setup working, it was only going for about five minutes. Honestly, I would have had WAY more fun at this event had it just been a text on the wall event.

Ok, so there were speakers as well. Here is a list of projects and organizations presented at this event:

Forecast Public Art

The TEFSA Foundation

Eureka Recycling


Community Design Group

Twin Cities Open Circuit

Science Museum of Minnesota

Finnegan’s Irish Amber

Resonance Film

Harvey Sarles: Anthropologist of the Ordinary

Each speaker was supposed to talk for six minutes and forty seconds. Supposed to. This was the case for the first person only. I’m a big fan of keeping people’s speeches to a minimum length. I think if you’re giving an overview of what you’re doing, five minutes is enough. 6:40 is a generous allowance. But, of course, many speakers blew right past their time allotment, and not with charismatic bluster. Basically, for all the good ideas there was not one ounce of charisma.

Public speaking aside, my favorite was Finnegan’s Irish Amber, which, if you don’t know, is a for-profit beer company that gives 100% of its profits to charity. They also make really tasty beer.

You may be asking yourself, “100% of their profits to charity? Why not just be a nonprofit?” Well, apparently the IRS won’t let you have a non-profit beer company. I think it has something to do with there being so much profit in beer that it would be un-American not to take a slice of that sweet money pie.

My overall reaction to all the speakers’ ideas is a positive one. I’m left scratching my head, however. These are all excellent private sector solutions to public problems, but conventional political thought says hippies (and most of these people did exude “Look at me, I’m liberal!”) are all about Big Government and Government as Solution. But no, these are all people subverting the system, rolling up their sleeves and getting things done on their own with no help from The Man. It was quite heartening.

There was a reception afterwards, which I was unable to stick around for (I’m a popular fellow, after all). Next year I think I’ll keep my schedule open to accommodate that.

[PS: All the photos came from here.]

2 Comments so far

  1. Erica M (ericam) on September 4th, 2008 @ 10:30 am

    I was really disappointed I couldn’t make it to this. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to the next one. Sounds like they got a decent crowd, if not a huge one.

    All the featured folks do some pretty cool things. That’s an interesting point about private vs public sector.

  2. marta28 on September 10th, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

    I love how SMM presented at this and I knew nothing about it. Do you remember who talked or what they talked about?

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