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Friday, 12 February 2010

Karl Weick already said it decades ago: organizations exist to keep people busy. Organizations have ‘borders’ which theoretically separates the entity from its environment and within these borders, members adhere to rules from above. Communities of practice come into being based on a totally different process of ‘organizing’. This concept refers to a group of people who share a common interest. Through the process of sharing information and experiences, the members of this group learn from each other. In my opinion, the ethical fashion movement is first and foremost a community of practice in which people get involved because of their passion for a common theme and which allows them to develop themselves personally and professionally. And here Weick echoes again: people feel part of this community of practice because they derive meaning from it. The exchange of stories helps them to shape their identity as agents of change within this community and in the wider environment.

My first impression when I look at the video interviews I did with exhibitors at Ethical Fashion Show, is that they refer to each other as ‘family’. Everyone loves being at the Show to greet old friends and make new contacts. Several entrepreneurs work together in their value chains to optimize knowledge of production with e.g. design. Some admit they have low expectations to meet buyers but instead favour supporting the community through simply being there. The community itself doesn’t have any boundaries, but instead exists in that moment, in that place, as a coming together of practices. It is in that place-making event that they can make sense of what they do throughout the year. At least this is how Weick would have probably said it. I can simply call it four inspiring days of learning, sharing and having fun.

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