Inside #NetCulture with Lead Organizer Ajay Puri: Part II

Tonight, #NetCulture: Stories of Culture and Diversity in Social Media will take place at the Vancouver Public Library. To find out more about how this community dialogue got started, I interviewed Ajay Puri, #NetCulture’s lead organizer, and asked him about the format, the speakers and his hopes for future such events.


To read Part I of this two-part series, see Inside #NetCulture with Lead Organizer Ajay Puri: Part I.

TB: Crossleft.org founder and activist Kety Esquivel is your Keynote Speaker — can you talk about why you choose her and how she will frame the evening's discussion?

AP: I reached out to Kety and told her about what I was planning in Vancouver. To my delight, she was equally as excited by the project and agreed to act as our keynote speaker.

But this is a grassroots, people-powered event and we didn’t have the funds to fly her out for the event. Instead, we’re skyping her in which, given that this is all about new tools and connecting from afar, works out perfectly. Fingers crossed that the technology cooperates!

Kety has done it all — from community organizer advocating for Hispanic civil rights and political campaigner for Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign to VP of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Her work reflects the fluidity of the term “community.” Whether you’re a group of citizens, a business, a non-profit or all three, her philosophy is that you are a community that can leverage social media to reach and empower its members. 

I hope the audience will identify with Kety and through her personal stories and successes feel empowered to do the same.

TB: Who are the speakers? How did you select your speakers?

AP: Working in the community as an organizer for the past 10 years, I’ve had the honour of working with people who have amazing stories to share. When we started organizing for #NetCulture, I reached out to as many as I could, including Jordana from Schema Magazine, Ray Hsu and Zi-Ann Lum from Way Too Azn, Jay Catalan and RJ Aquino from Tulayan and even my own dad, Ashok Puri!

It was important to us to highlight and celebrate achievements by members of the community itself—we didn’t want to put on a top-down affair where we were talked at for the whole night. This is will be a dialogue.

And I wanted to show how our differences (work, culture, gender, age) aren’t greater than our collective voice, which we can channel to empower others.

TB: You’ve also arranged an after-party. What can folks expect?

AP: We hope to carry on the conversation at the after-party at the Kingston Taphouse and Grille, which has generously donated the WREC Room for our use. It’s a chance for the audience to meet the speakers and chat one-on-one with them. 

Plus, we’ll have a fusion of local artists from different cultural backgrounds providing entertainment.

TB: What do you hope will happen as a result of this event? What do you hope the event leads to?

AP: Eventually, we’ll take this offline engagement online via coopculture.com so that we can maintain the momentum in between events. With all of our tickets now spoken for and a waiting list started, we’re excited and humbled by the support we’ve received. Vancouver is ready to have an open dialogue about these issues and we want to be the platform that helps drive the conversation forward.

At the local level, we’ll be brainstorming topics for future events. To stay up-to-date, people can sign up to receive periodic emails from us on coopculture.com/email.

And we’ve already had interest from community members in California and Toronto about hosting #NetCulture in other cities. This could be a steppingstone for us to elevate issues of culture, diversity and social media to the national and international level. We have the ear of others in the field now with this event so we’ll continue building relationships and see if we can create a series of community dialogues. 

Photo Credit: Sarah Race

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