Who are today's innovative, socially involved, networking Freemasons?
May 22, 2013 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Is there an international group of innovative, charitably-minded people that get together and share ideas (physically) in the way that the Freemasons, Rotary and Lions Clubs all do? But without the ceremony, pomp and irrelevance (of some of these associations).

I'm looking to meet and learn with locals that are passionate about their society, successful, enthusiastic and all of that good stuff. However, the majority of the institutions that I am aware of are, frankly, a bit stodgy and very male (even if they are, at this point in time, open to everyone). I would love to join a group that is dedicated to all of the usual good stuff but is truly dynamic, not bogged down by their own history and habits and so on...

I want something really out there pushing it... Like an ongoing TED conference or something I suppose. Any suggestions?
posted by HopStopDon'tShop to Society & Culture (14 answers total)
Well, if you want something more like an ongoing TED conference, I suggest looking into local Toastmasters clubs, as they involve short speeches on a wide variety of topics, focusing on improving members' communication skills. Clubs vary widely, so if it sounds interesting to you, visit a few different clubs if you can.
posted by asperity at 12:43 PM on May 22, 2013

Rotary isn't as stodgy as you might think, depending on where you are. Rotaract is their under-30 project and is pretty fun and outgoing and eschews a lot of the pomp. Lots of clubs are now very young and do lots of projects and have speakers at each meeting that share ideas in the manner of TED Talks. Rotary itself is generally older, but some clubs are very young (I visited one last week that was an average age of 35) and the pomp varies by club. In addition, the projects some of them do are truly outstanding and there's always the opportunity to travel internationally with the club.

If you want some info, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by mrfuga0 at 1:01 PM on May 22, 2013

Lions clubs aint that pompy, ceremonial or irrelevant. I would go along and see.
posted by BenPens at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2013

Sounds like you're describing a salon.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2013

Toastmasters is definitely not what you're looking for. For one thing, it has a really corny rah-rah-Toastmasters vibe. For another, it's the middlest of middle-brow, and more akin to an adult show-and-tell than it is to a TED conference. If you want to listen to speeches about "what I did on my last cruise vacation" or "how I cope with my fibromyalgia," then you'll love Toastmasters, but TED it ain't.
posted by Unified Theory at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Venus Project? Not so sure about the "getting together" part, but it otherwise applies.
posted by Eicats at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2013

you could try www.lesswrong.com Still pretty male dominated but decidedly the opposite of stodgy. There's meetups all over
posted by drethelin at 3:03 PM on May 22, 2013

Nthing Rotary - if you're in a city, there are usually several Rotary clubs, and the younger ones tend to be much faster with the ritual stuff and more focused on conversation and doing things. The stodginess actually serves a purpose - anything very dynamic and new is usually around a few people doing the work or temporary. Longterm institutions need structure. Hash House Harriers are all over the world and informal and interesting, but they don't do much except drink and run!
posted by viggorlijah at 3:27 PM on May 22, 2013

My local community association has done things like set up a local farmers' market, organize pop-up shops in empty storefronts, upgraded stores, promotes "friends of" groups for local parks, organizes cleanups, etc. Nice people, diverse, smart, not "very male". Do you have something similar? Or you could set one up!
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:01 PM on May 22, 2013

For what it's worth, different Toastmasters clubs in the same city can be dramatically different, and some can be quite interesting. Though, the emphasis is definitely on self-improvement rather than innovation, and the umbrella organization feels like a car dealership wrapped in beige wallpaper.

You may have better luck if you tell us where you're located. Depending on your interests, your politics, and your location, there are likely to be hacker spaces, activist groups, and social/arts organizations that would meet your criteria. If you ask me, you're far more likely to meet interesting people meeting to accomplish a thing rather than meeting to meet.

Around here, there are many interesting sub-groups involved in time banking and in a number of related co-ops. (And also a lot of not at all interesting ones.)
posted by eotvos at 8:24 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

See if there's a Grange near you? These seem to vary widely in emphasis, but may send you on the right path. And if that wasn't a complete shot in the dark, is there any chance a Quaker group might interest you?
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:53 AM on May 23, 2013

Quakers! Awesome.

Thanks so much for all of your suggestions. I didn't mention my location because I'm in the middle of an island and it might distract you (as in, make you question whether your idea would apply etc). I do, however, require that it's an organisation with a great structure and support network at the top level, rather than one that has moments of brilliance at the local level.

Lesswrong is awesome, thanks. There won't be any meetups here unfortunately (unless I organise one) but what a fantastic resource! Thanks.

The Venus Project - I think he's a genius but the association with the Zeitgeist guys has me a bit shy about getting involved.

Thanks again, I appreciate all your ideas.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 8:07 AM on May 23, 2013

If you are a female I would suggest the Junior League. Don't be put off by it's reputation, it is not the organization you may have been led to believe it was from "The Help". Yes, some chapters do still sell cookbooks (mine does not) but for the most part there is a strong emphasis on volunteerism with a focus on helping women and children in the community.

It also prides itself in being a training organization for the women involved. I have learned a few very useful skills that translate well into my professional life. I don't just mean things like "How to be a great leader", but more technical skills like how to use some software that will be very beneficial to me in the future.

The women in my local chapter are very much passionate about their society, successful, and enthusiastic. I am sure it can vary to an extent based on the region, but beyond reading our mission statement to begin each meeting there is no pomp and circumstance.
posted by ridiculous at 8:47 AM on May 23, 2013

Maybe American Association of University Women?
posted by CathyG at 4:11 PM on May 24, 2013

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