Location: Places >> North America >> United States >> Pennsylvania >> Philadelphia >> 3rd Sunday Potlucks, Philadelphia (check guidelines, please)
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Why have potlucks? Why on the 3rd Sunday of every month?
Here's something for newcomers to the group who might not understand what I'm trying trying to accomplish with this movement and why I am so dedicated to getting 3rd Sunday Potlucks happening in cities all across the globe.
First, a little about myself...
My name is Derek Wallace and I joined The Couchsurfing Project in mid-2006. My first exposure to the network was a meet-up in Los Angeles, where I had been living for the past five years. The group needed a place to host the event (the CS Los Angeles Gathering Part Deux), so I offered up the pool courtyard of my apartment complex as it could hold several dozen people, had tons of patio furniture for people to sit on and even two propane grills for cooking. So, to make it easy, we turned it into a potluck meal so that nobody had to spend a lot of money and so that we could have a good mix of food.
We had people there from all over the world - many who had come to town JUST FOR THIS EVENT! But what really impressed me was the number of people who lived in town but had never even met! Here were neighbors and kindred spirits whose paths had never crossed simply because they were too busy with their 9-5 jobs or perhaps because it never even occurred to them that they didn't have to travel to far-away lands to experience cultural immersion. As I sat there, talking and laughing and sharing stories with new friends, both domestic and international, I vowed to help recreate that experience for as many people as I could in every city I visited.
Because to me, potlucks encapsulate everything that is at the heart of The Couchsurfing Project. Every time I see a potluck happen, I also see new friendships blossom and group excursions soon follow (for example, seeing a band play, checking out a cool restaurant, hitting the lake/beach, doing a museum tour). In addition, it's a GREAT way for newcomers to see what we're all about, hear travel stories from people who are experienced with the network and to get advice on how to use the website. To me, it's actually one of the most fundamental yet often-times overlooked aspects of the entire Couchsurfing community.
In 2006, I traveled across the U.S. and put together meet-ups in such cities as Charlotte, Chicago and San Francisco, but none of them had that same magic that initial potluck had - mainly because the events took place at restaurants, where you are stuck in one seat most of the time, can't interact with everyone freely, have to watch the volume of your voice and worry about what you say in public, and then the dreaded problem of SPLITTING THE BILL. So I decided, upon my return to Los Angeles, to make my next meet-up into a potluck instead. And ya know what?
It was the best one we had, with the highest turnout and the most favorable reviews afterward!
So in 2007, I was awarded Nomadic Ambassador status and made it my goal to not only use the Couchsurfing site for traveling and for hosting travelers, but also for networking CS locals in every place I visited. For me, it's about being more conscious and more involved in where I go. And hey - I can't deny that I've had some of the best food I've ever eaten at 3rd Sunday Potlucks! ;)
So now that I've addressed the question of "why have potlucks?", I'll move on to why I'm working at having them on the 3rd Sunday of every month...
In Los Angeles, I belong to an independent filmmakers' group called "Channel 101" (www.channel101.com), which meets on the last Sunday of the month, every month. That's when we get together to screen the new films we've made, and to socialize with another. For me, it was great because knowing that our group meeting was a constant helped me to plan my schedule and it made me feel good knowing that if I missed a screening one month, I could always catch it next month. The idea is that though we may get wrapped up in our daily lives, we know that there is at least one day of the month where we can come together and see one another.
But, the funny thing is that these once-a-month events actually help new friendships blossom and group activities soon follow (for example, everyone getting involved to make films together). This system worked so well, that it's how I spent the vast majority of my time for the three years before I found out about Couchsurfing.
Because what I didn't realize at the time, even though it's obvious now, is that it was ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY. So many of us are locked away in our cubicles or in our apartments that we just NEED to experience more human interaction that is real and unique. For many of us on this network, that translates to traveling to a new area. But the funny thing is that you can travel in YOUR OWN CITY and get that same experience!
For example, I lived in "the valley", which is behind the mountain that the Hollywood sign is on. I got so wrapped up in working and making films and hosting people in my neighborhood and taking them to the beach and places they wanted to see that I never really explored the Chinatown of Los Angeles - even though I lived within a few miles of it for SIX YEARS! So one day, I contacted some local hosts about surfing with them. Obviously, they were a little confused at first, until they learned that I wanted to come stay with them so I could be in the area for Chinese New Year's. Surfing with them, and then meeting their friends who lived in that section of the city, and then exploring Chinatown and having AMAZING food while the festivities went on around us was exactly the reason I had moved to Lo Angeles in the first place. But I had gotten so wrapped up in my own little life that it slipped right past me for so long. I had that whole "oh, I live here...I'll see it next week" mentality. And "next week" kept happening, until six long years had gone by.
But the power of local community helped counter that!
That's why I'm currently working with Ambassadors and active CSers all around the U.S. to help make 3rd Sunday Potlucks happen in as many cities as possible. In 2008, I'll be traveling across the country, visiting cities like Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Charlotte and Atlanta...so we can catalyze 3rd Sunday Potlucks!
The reason I have focused on the 3rd Sunday of every month is that it avoids the hassles of the work week and allows for a longer event to take place (for example, noon until sun-down). This allows people to make it, at least for a short while, even if they have chores to run or have to go to work that day. Plus, having been a professional event planner before I switched to video journalism as a career, I've seen that this is statistically the most open weekend for people to do things. Many plays, festivals, movie premieres and such open the first or last week of a month, but that third weekend is typically neglected.
Now, while those are the immediate reasons for having them on the 3rd Sunday, the big picture is to have a global "Couchsurfing Day" happen every month. Think of it like this: you know that at the same time on the same day each and every week, the new episode of your favorite television show comes out. And you know that the same time on the same day every two weeks, you get your paycheck from work. Well, imagine knowing that the same time, once a month, every month, there is a huge CS event you can attend! And just imagine if this event is concurrent in every city in the United States, so that no matter what city you are in that 3rd Sunday, you can find a potluck to join! And just imagine if that spread out to the entire globe, so that no matter what city in the WORLD you are in on the 3rd Sunday of the month, you could find a potluck to join! Imagine knowing that at least once a month, you will get to meet locals and meet travelers from all around the world! Now tell me that you're not smiling from ear-to-ear thinking about it! And the best part of all is that these potlucks will spur more weekly events as well, which also lead to more community involvement! It's like a perpetual motion machine of community bonding, cultural immersion and exploration!
Anyway, this is quite literally some "food for thought" and I look forward to working with you so we can have more successful 3rd Sunday Potlucks!
Peace and health,
Ideas for Positions on the Committee
I wanted to suggest possible positions the committee could be comprised of, after a year of observation and organizing potlucks...
Location Manager - secures the place that the event happens every month and ensures that any necessary paperwork has been filed. We could use a centrally-located park as a default location, but keep a meeting space reserved as a back-up (for example, the public library). This person would be in charge of giving the back-up location proper notice that we would not be needing the location after all so that we can stay on good terms with them for when we do need it in the future.
Food/Beverage Coordinator - makes sure that we don't end up with like, 50 bags of chips and 50 containers of dip. Helps encourage attendees to bring dishes they prepared themselves and, if we want to be ambitious, helps bring things like electric burners, pots and pans and other cooking utensils so guests can actually prepare their food right there fresh.
Navigator - Must be attending the meeting, know the city and can provide directions via cell phone/laptop/iPhone/etc. This person should be familiar not only with the parking situation and the best streets to get there, but should also know how the public transportation system works. Could also be in charge of any signage that directs people from parking areas to where the event is actually happening.
Set-up/Break Down Crew: This person should be the first to show and the last to leave, or at least make sure that a crew exists to do the same. This person makes sure that when potluck attendees arrive, everything is already set up for them so that all they have to do is put their food on the table. If coolers need ice in them, or there is trash to pick up at the end of the event, this person and the people they recruit to help them take care of it.
Greenskeeper - makes sure the event is as environmentally-friendly as possible. Makes sure we have systems for recycling bottles, cans, paper and plastics. Makes sure that any uneaten food goes home with someone or, if we want to be ambitious, is taken somewhere to be composted. As a long-term goal, this person could also initiate a system whereby permanent plates, cups, silverware and linen are utilized. For example, you can tons of cheap dishes at Goodwill. What if you show up to a potluck and are assigned eating utensils to keep throughout the event, to wash when you're done and put back into a storage bin of some kind? This person could then load the bins of utensils into their vehicle and store it in their home until the next potluck. They could also wash the linen so that it can be re-used the next month. Early potlucks will involve paper plates, plastic utensils and cups and paper napkins. But this is obviously something to build toward over time.
Promoter - spreads the word via posts in local groups, sending messages to new members of the website, sending personal messages to CS neighbors in the area, etc.
Documentarian - official photographer and/or videographer. Everyone is always free to bring their own cameras, but for those people who don't have cameras, this person could always be relied upon to provide images/video from the event. It might be nice to have a camera on a tripod where people can kind of do little video testimonials of their experiences with couchsurfing. Someone could take this footage and put together a little 3-minute video or something to put up on Youtube...
Or, this person could document the process of going from a bunch of strangers with musical instruments who belong to the same network to having a completed song at the end of the day. For example, at one potluck on the beach we had like, a dozen musicians jamming together on sitars, guitars, drums, harmonicas, etc. In just two hours, they created a whole song from scratch and it was really awesome. I wish someone had recorded it, so that others could hear it as well! How cool would it be to make a Couchsurfing Soundtrack? ;)
So, this is a good starting point. Some positions may need multiple members, so I could easily see the committee being a dozen people. I can also see it changing every month, depending on people's schedules and travel plans. What does everyone else think?