During our past two gatherings at Ethnographia, an idea blossomed and is now coming to life. Special thanks to Shyla (the SUPER gecko!) for driving this concept and to the wonderful team around her who will help make it happen. Please read Shyla's story and invitation:
Our Six CENTs
The Day CENT Happened:
I was late…again. Story of my life. I love to be busy and engaged. I had promised I would come and talk about social stuff we might do at Ethnographia Island. I promised that a week or two ago, or somewhere around then. Who knows – my virtual world moves sometimes at the speed of light. What I do know, the journey is worth the anxiety, angst and understanding that growth, change and learning always create for me.
So, late, I finally got to where I was supposed to be and as the group discussed a co-operative holiday build I pondered the idea with anxiety. I’m a business owner…I don’t have time to do a co-operative build in December. If you’re not a business owner in the Virtual World, you probably have no idea how busy I am right now…and what I need…what I really need…is folks who understand that.
Then, it popped out, just like that! “I want to organize the disabled business people of Second Life. Because we need a group.”
In most any other place the response would likely be, “That’s cool!”, or “Go for it!”, or “How would that look?”, or “Good luck with that”. But I am not in those places. I am sitting on top of a mountain with two researchers who are regularly amazed by the folks they study, a Yosemite holiday tree named Jadyn, a ‘dinkie’ human named Mousie, a big “tiny” Gator named Daisy and a human named iSkye. They are all with me, a dinkie gecko.
From there it rolls, fast. Concerns are raised, criteria put forth and support offered. The energy feels as if it has been pressurized for years. In its release, we talk about the challenges and benefits of being a business owner in the virtual world. We discuss the potential pitfalls of a group. We share some of our bad experiences and we share our hopes for the future.
We share visions of how a group might work, what it might do. We want a democracy, transparency, inclusion, compensation.
After an hour some of us must go now, and the rest of us, as business folks, must go soon. Before we do, we receive a great gift: Virtual Land on Ethnographia Island. We are offered several parcels and we elect not for the ‘top of the line, your eyes can’t miss it spot’ but the one more likely to be there over the longer haul – a stable spot for a concrete organization. This gift assures us we have ‘massive fans’ and these fans charge us to move forward.
We confirm a mission statement, dedicate the land, form a group, take a picture and decide we must have a ground breaking. Then we congratulate ourselves, thank each other and depart.
The birth of CENT is complete. Capable Entrepreneurs Nurturing Talent (CENT) lives.
Its mission is to be an organization of virtual world business owners who demonstrate the virtual world is a place of possibility for persons with disabilities. Through CENT, we will network and share strategies for success. We will bridge communities to promote positive imagery, consideration of consumer needs and civic standards to create a more inclusive world for all.
It’s a mouthful, and if I thought my months of prior contemplations constituted work, I know as I stand at this barren plot today, the musings were play. The work begins now.
But I am not alone. There is a tree and a dinkie and a gator. Together we are six CENTs with two massive fans. The question is, can we turn six CENTs into a viable organization that works to the benefit of its members and the community to which it belongs?
The Days Before CENT Happened:
This year I purchased some mainland, opened two stores and engaged in earning some linden through providing services. What I realized quickly was I had no idea what I was doing and I needed to learn or it would get expensive fast!
What I also knew as a person with a disability is some of the models others have created will require modification to work for me. I’m creative, I’m working to be successful – there can be no barrier so great that I can’t finagle a concept to work for me in some way.
I know, too, from my virtual travels, there are successful business owners with disabilities in the virtual world –lots of them. They are busy, busy, busy people. Many have left the disabled community they may have once affiliated with to support their business efforts…many never belonged to a disabled community at all.
They figured out how to do this – so I can figure it out too. It’s kind of a mantra of mine. Another one I’ve acquired since disability is, “Things take longer for you now girl, so deal with it or sort it, but don’t go loopy over it!”
I wondered why there was not an organization for business people like me, with challenges that make similar real world endeavors impossible. Maybe there was one at one time. I don’t know. If someone knows, I hope they tell me – all I knew is there isn’t one now. Not here. Not in Second Life.
So began the chatter. I would ask people how they felt about a business group and they would tell me why it would or would not work, why they might or might not support it. Overall there was support, but the structure was critical and the message was as well.
I did this for months, chattering here and there and having people tell me to add them to the list should the group ever come to be.
Then I met someone in another virtual world who suggested we secluded folks of Second Life were falling behind. My first reaction was to debate this statement, but inside I knew it was true. Second Life is already so structured it’s hard to do ‘new’ things here. Many have called ‘dibs’ already and they can, at times, band together in an effort to ensure their status and dominance – which serves mostly to constrict and limit horizons.
I knew, whatever was to happen, it needed to be free. Because I live in the states, my first concept of this was a democracy – but that short chat with the other virtual world made me realize it was more. It had to be interworldly. Many businesses exist in multiple virtual worlds, and an organization that serves the business community in only one virtual world would never suffice.
So when I began to work on a mission statement, when I began to work with others on the edits, I was pretty firm that Second Life could not be mentioned. Not that we would ‘bug out’ into all the worlds at once, but we needed the freedom to do so. I didn’t want an early Mission statement to limit the group to one grid – it didn’t make sense for us who already hop grids and conduct business in multiple worlds.
Then I broached it with someone I was a bit closer to, someone with whom I had actually worked on a project with, and she was the first person open to doing more than just discussing the idea. Jaydn was willing to bounce ideas around, provide feedback, help edit and provide encouragement. Over the course of several more weeks, the vision of a business group for people with disabilities took the most solid form it had thus far.
With Jadyn’s help we had a name, CENT (Capable Entrepreneurs Nurturing Talent) and a mission statement. We had ideas about structure and values and concepts of funding and growth. There was really just one thing left – to launch.
And that happened that Friday on the mountain. I can’t do a co-operative build in December, there is simply no way – and I knew most everyone like me on this mountain, who has a business, is in the same boat, and we need to come together and explain why this is, and that we are not being difficult or uncooperative when we don’t always say, “Yes,” we are simply responsible to our business as well as our community and we need a balance somehow for both and a way to help others understand and…
And then the conversation in my head came out in voice, “I want to organize the disabled business people of Second Life. Because we need a group.”
What Will Happen To CENT Now:
Yes, we entrepreneurs work – it is how we earn our living and become self-sufficient. It’s not a dirty word, but it does imply a pay-off. I believe this concept is critical to CENTs success.
The vision is an organization of Capable Entrepreneurs, who define Capable as they so choose. Business people aligned with the idea that we serve ourselves best if we are as self-sufficient as possible.
With CENT, we can organize ourselves so we can readily identify member scripters, builders, idea generators, marketers, and so on. Not so we can ask each other for favors, but so that we can share ideas and engage each other in business; offering compensation both parties can agree on and benefit from.
Finally, as a group we know others gave their time to use, freely and without question, as they were able. In so doing, they gave us the gift of success. We wish to pass this on, to Nurture Talent of those who wish to give this self-sufficient way of life a try. Some gave time in the way of encouragement, others via online tutorials or manuals and others with one-on-one training. None gave us all their time, but they gave some – and as our skills grow and we become more adept at running our businesses successfully, we wish to emulate those who helped us, as good citizens, offering what we can while still sustaining the businesses we build.
In this way we can further grow the disabled business community and give, from what I can see, one of the greatest gifts of all – an opportunity to see ourselves in a positive way, a successful way, as self-sufficient individuals participating in the virtual world as a whole, with a viable voice that is worth hearing and a message which demonstrates inclusiveness is good, solid business for everyone.
Hopefully, someday, this will be CENTs legacy: We came together, worked together, helped each other and demonstrated how capable we all are.
For today, CENT is here, it is free to join and wants to hear your voice, help support your goals and offer hope to those who might follow us into business in the virtual worlds. We’d be honored to have you join us.