Northfield: Conference or Community? An important discussion
Over the course of several Planning Meetings this year, a recurring topic of discussion has come up and led to fascinating discussions. The Executive Committee now wants to include all members of our organization in the conversation. It is not clear that this discussion leads to any particular changes. But we LOVE that this is being talked about, and perhaps it results in a better understanding of what Northfield is, and why it is important to so many of us.
Below are two points of view for you to consider. These attempt to summarize what was discussed this year. We would love to hear your thoughts on this debate, you can use the comments field at the bottom, and we will collect the comments and make them available to everyone in the near future.
Why We Are Better Off Calling Ourselves “The Northfield Conference”
- We honor our history and traditions by keeping the conference appellation
- Conference is welcoming to Newcomers, community sounds like emotional commitment.
- Being welcoming to newcomers is very important to us, for philosophical reasons and to maintain the size and health of the organization
- Conference helps us to not be thought of as a “cult.” Even we know that we are not a cult, we want to avoid that thought for new people
- We only are together for one week per year, which is more like a conference. Community sounds year-round and residential
- We offer a packed schedule of programming like a conference would
- For all those reasons, calling ourselves a conference is important, even if we “secretly” think of ourselves as a community
Why We Are Better Off Calling Ourselves “The Northfield Community”
- underlying our programming, we are a community: caring and constant and people-oriented
- we clearly are NOT a cult, there is not a singular communal ethos or authoritarian leader
- Conference implies highly professional programming, which we achieve often but not always.
- Community allows for experimenting and forgiveness: a process orientation
- Conference implies “fee for service” rather than the extreme level of volunteerism that we absolutely depend upon
- Conference implies that the programming content is our focus, community is about people
- We are increasingly a year-round operation, with MidWinter, the well-attended planning meetings, various internet communication tools, etc. That makes us a non-residential and very vibrant and connected community
- For all those reasons, it is better to name what we are accurately, and work to communicate what that means in ways that are authentic and inviting – which is after all, exactly what we are all about