Re-connecting with Terry, and 1990s Net optimism

Until recently I had rather lost touch with Terry Grunwald, an inspiring and helpful mentor and friend in my early acquaintance with the web. We met in the mid-1990s while I was in the US finding out about Freenets and Community Networks. Those grass-roots initiatives to connect and support people, and develop local content, were an inspiration to many people who are now developing more sophisticated social technology programmes.

In the early 1990s Terry ran a pioneering socialtech programme in North Carolina, NCexChange, and produced one of the first guides to use of the the Net for social benefit, called Making the Net Work. As you can see here, Terry made some trips to the UK, I visited NC, and we developed a site that included a toolkit and other materials that still contains many useful lessons.

Despite her great wisdom about online communities, adoption of technology, and its possible impact on organisations, Terry didn’t have much online presence.  She was terrific in small groups, could do a brilliant presentations, was mistress of bullet-pointed reality checks … and a wonderful conversationist. But she said writing was tough.

So I was doubly delighted to receive an email from Terry the other day, which re-connected us and also told family, friends and fellow Democrats that she would start blogging:

As many of you know, I was fortunate to have been elected a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver — committed to Barack Obama.  In my presentation to the members of the District Convention, I promised to write a blog to share my impressions and experiences.

I’ve now created Dem Doodles which can be seen at

I think the blog quite brilliant in the way that it connects Terry’s personal history and passions with both local concerns and a broader political perspective. Terry is a more than modest person (and I can hear her saying this):

Writing has always been a struggle for me. I envy people whose thoughts flow out of their fingertips onto the page (now the screen). Even though I am a fat, short person without much money or talent (truly in all honesty), if there is one thing I would have wished for in my life, it would be fluency : the ability to write with “eloquence: powerful and effective language.”

But read this post about how Terry’s political awareness developed over the kitchen table with her mother on a chicken farm in Virginia, and Profile of a precinct, on the ups and downs of local political organising, and I think you’ll agree that Terry is a terrific storyteller.  If you know Terry (and even if you don’t) I hope you’ll give her some encouragement by dropping a comment on her blog, whether you are an Obama supporter or not**. I think this is going to be my best window into the US election … and a reconnection with those optimistic days in the 1990s when we started to think that the Net could change things for the better.

** What am I saying? Time to be partisan I think.

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