THE FIRST TIME I CAME TO PHNOM PENH, there was a feeling that anything could happen. This was in March, 2014. This was a time in my life that I needed to be in a place where you could try things, make it up, see what happened. Because so much of what I had imagined was going to work simply hadn’t been doing that. I was on the verge of quitting it all. Giving up on the ‘Anything is Possible’ dream that we started Design Kompany with as a limited liability company in Seattle in 2005. This was the hope, back then: You could do anything you wanted, if you just had a clear picture of what it was. Somehow, the universe would deliver. Regardless of background or income or societal class, the clarity of intent was the key. A few days after moving into a flat on Street 63, something that I never imagined I would do, I organized a conversation salon called ORIGIN. What is fromness? Having turned this question about in my heart for the one year on the road in India, Nepal, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Laos, I very much wanted to know.
Having a burning question in your heart is one of the best ways to host a salon.
So I did.
ORIGIN was hosted in an ‘unconference’ format, which I think is a new idea here in Phnom Penh and I’d only first ever heard of it a few years prior at a barcamp in Seattle. You propose a theme, a topic that is, that could be openly interpreted. Here’s how it works. You share about it as a date-time-place and just see who comes. When guests arrive, you host the space in such a way as to invite those who are there to share what they hope to hear, and in this way, a natural and organically formed agenda is devised. On the spot. It’s very nice. We talk together in small circles, only with those who are also interested in exploring the topics that we are. In this way, we make good on our time. We establish real connections. People at ORIGIN, pictured below, seemed to really engage with this style of gathering with new and different others.
Here’s a pic:
ONE OF THE GREATEST things I have learned about living in Cambodia is just how open to trying new things that the Cambodian people are. How could I possibly have gotten to know people here, who are from here, when I’d only just arrived myself? Yet there were a lot of people who were local to Phnom Penh who got word of this and came. I really admired and appreciated that.
A lot of times you just throw an idea ‘out there’ and see if it ‘has legs,’ which is just designspeak for, ‘Does anyone really want this?’
In my three years since ORIGIN, I have tried out a lot of other kinds of topics, to mixed reviews and response. I have also gone to other countries and gathered people in different cities, just to see if maybe it was about the place. It’s not. It’s about the people. Whoever comes is the right people, it says in the Open Space manual. Whatever happens is exactly the only thing that could have.
New things ahead. I’m looking forward to it.