Another Wellspring business that I recently interviewed is Camp Ballibay. Run by John Jannone, a second generation owner, it’s a summer camp for the arts located in Pennsylvania. What John does as camp director is worth noting as it’s an interesting example of working with social intention. First, having 150 kids at the camp with 50 staff is a huge responsibility. And you can imagine the logistics. But John, despite his technical savvy, works out scheduling in a different kind of very human-oriented tech. It’s John’s philosophy to have face to face conversations instead of email, texting or social media. All the students and instructors meet and chat about what they are going to do and organize themselves. Need a meeting? Just come to dinner where everyone will be and have a conversation with the people that need to know. It’s very focused on strengthening the social relationships between people. Camp rules actually forbid cell phones and social media, despite the intensive state of the art equipment for video and audio.
Whereas other camps offer highly regimented days for campers, during which pretty much every moment is accounted for, Ballibay lets kids direct themselves and figure out how to prioritize.
Then there’s the smart way his camp is laid out. As he points out, his parents made the wise decision of spreading the buildings all through the 174 acres. That means the students have to walk all around the campus getting exercise. Plus, there are no signs that point the way or tell you what building is what. If you want to know where something is, you have to ask someone else. Again, building the social relationships with people. I love this idea as I think it’s such a clever way to get people to interact.
Another story John told us was about how new instructors come with many questions, “what’s the chain of command?”, “when are the meetings?” and “where are the lists?” John has a simple answer of saying, “you decide” as it’s up to them to organize themselves, hold their own meetings by talking to people and working together. Of course, John is still the camp director, but the key is handing over the responsibility for their success to the people that are closest to it. Knowing John, my bet is that he mentors new staff in trying to handle this responsibility, but like the campers, they have to get used to holding responsibility for their own success.
This idea is a big piece of what I see as a Wellspring business. Allowing people to control their own destiny and control their lives. Purpose needs to guide what they do, and no one is saying that doing nothing is an option, but being independent and self-initiating work is critical to my sense of well-being.