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November 15 2008 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

In the late 70s and early 80s I saw The Ramones, The Clash and Black Flag. I didn't know it until a few years later, the small group of people interested in the same bands was a tribe.

During this same time, my brother brought me to my first Grateful Dead show. This was also... undeniably a tribe.

A few months ago at the California Coastal Commission hearing for the proposed toll road through San Onofre State Park, thousands showed up and together let their views be known. They were also a tribe.

So what is a tribe?

A tribe is a group of people that are bound together by a common interest. They may live in the same city or they may be dispersed around the globe. They may all have the same socioeconomic status or they may be as diverse as a package of crayons. Their diversity and origins don't matter. What matters is that they are passionate about one specific thing.

Surfrider is a tribe.

It's been called a tribe for as long as I can remember. Honestly, at first that word, that label seemed a bit over-reaching. Perhaps that's my own sensitivity to the various indigenous peoples around the globe, that's THEIR word. But the more I thought about it the more I warmed up to it as it's a descriptive term and not a moniker for a distinct group of people.

Mark Spalding pointed out to me a new book by Seth Godin called Tribes. I picked it up on iTunes and listened to it on some drives, then I listened to it again.

It's good. Like many books of its kind, it attempts to bottle a phenomenon that existed but is amplified due to the many communication and culture changes brought on by the proliferation of the internet and broadband.

However, the concepts is great.

I encourage everyone that has an inkling to step out and build or lead something to read this book. The entire book rings true to me. It's not just about thinking of new approaches to issues, but also employing any and all new toolsets to achieve related goals.

It's never been about the internet to me. It's always been about what the internet enables:  listserves in the early 90s, the mid-90s birth of browser-based applications, and the dot com boom.  The internet has always been about an idea, an idea that was independent of the 'net... but an idea that could be approached and amplified because of the new toolsets brought on by the 'net.

Sufrider's 100+ web sites are a direct extension of our 100+ chapters. These both feed and  each other... and in turn give more people ways to plug into coastal conservation. These give people onramps to our mission.

So Surfrider Foundation is a tribe.

Rise Above Plastics is a tribe.

Surfrider's San Diego Chapter is a tribe (as is every one of our 100+ chapters).

The group of people knowledgabe and active on sea-walls is a tribe.

The crews focused on monitoring policy changes is a tribe.


I encourage you to read this book but more than that I encourage you to understand what we have in front of us... a great set of tools for creating and leading tribes.

The days of power belonging to pyramid, hierarchical power structures is near over. Focusing on management of status quos is a recipe for not just mediocrity, it's a recipe for extinction.

Plug in.
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