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What is the Brain Exchange?
How Did We Get Started?
What is a Typical Meeting Like?
How Do We Stay Connected?


What is the Brain Exchange?

idea" Please help me" are three of the most powerful words in the English language, according to therapist Cathy Conheim. People like to help others, they like to feel generous, especially if they share something in common (a spiritual connection, a shared belief, devotion to a common cause, etc.) For those asking for help, there is strength in vulnerability, providing an opportunity to connect with others in compassion and generosity. We create powerful bonds when we ask for help -- as well as when we give it.
~ BJ Gallagher, facilitator of the Los Angeles Brain Exchange

The Brain Exchange is a monthly, open-ended, brainstorming group for women, re-introduced in 1995 by Anita Goldstein and Susan Goldstein. Affiliated brainstorming groups are emerging all the time! People brainstorm about relationships, in-laws, children, quality of life questions, career questions, marketing strategies, entrepreneurial ideas, titles for the books they're writing and names for their babies.

Brainstorming is an opportunity to meet like-minded women, to give and receive support for work and personal issues, and to network. It's a process that encourages people to share their new projects, their concerns, their hopes and fears, and to explore transitions. We use a structured process and traditional brainstorming guidelines to generate answers to questions.

How Did We Get Started?

In 1995 Susan and Anita responded to the requests of some friends: would we lead a couple of brainstorming sessions to help them discover creative solutions to life-transition questions: retirement, new jobs, old relationships, new relationships, new careers - the stuff of life? We had experienced this brainstorming process in the '80s when Joy-Lily and Lee Glickstein did demonstration sessions in Berkeley and in Southern California. We remembered that it was a powerful and joyful way to discover creative ways of approaching almost any issue.

We started with the intention of meeting a few times to solve some specific problems. To date we've brainstormed with more than two thousand generous, wise, creative, lively women;  some have attended meetings regularly, some sporadically and some just once because they had a burning question or wanted to check us out. We are now a community that meets in the San Francisco East Bay at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month. To find out where this group meets, contact Anita.

If you are interested in connecting with other women in your area who might want to start a Brain Exchange, contact Anita. If there is anyone on our list in your area, I will notify you.

What is a Typical Meeting Like?

ideaSome people recognize a great resource when they see it, and they dip into it frequently. Others prefer to use the network only on rare occasions – that's their choice and it's just fine, too. It's kind of like the Wizard of Oz – everybody gets something different but everyone gets what they need. I love this!!
~ BJ Gallagher, facilitator of the Los Angeles Brain Exchange

idea"Wisdom blast" has been used to describe some meetings!

People start arriving at 6:30 for a half hour of socializing; we are committed to beginning the brainstorming process at 7:00. We take a fifteen-minute break, and finish at 9:30.

We start with a check-in: each person in the circle has one minute to say her name, and something about 'what's up' in her life right now.

During the check-in, you'll have a chance to think about:
Do I have a question I want brainstormed?
Do I want help formulating a question?

We typically brainstorm several questions in an evening (as many as eight).

Formulating the Question (up to five minutes per question)

If you have an idea for a question, the group will help you refine it into a question. You give us the basic information (no long stories) and we'll work until we create a question that feels right to you.

Brainstorming (five minutes per question)

You, the questioner, have only to sit back and let the group swing into action. Be receptive, no 'yes-butting' - and don't make faces!! We've noticed that the flow of ideas stops if the questioner is perceived to be judging them. Someone will take notes and you will receive them by email in the next day or so.

People will call out action ideas in brief sentences or phrases, following the brainstorming guidelines. Those brainstorms may suggest an action to take, someone to call, an organization to contact, a resource to read or some other way of moving closer to your goal.

Here is a more detailed description of the Brain Exchange guidelines for brainstorming.

How We Stay Connected

idea"It's also been a wonderful surprise to receive e-mails from members I've not yet even MET, with excellent and helpful suggestions for expanding my business. "

idea"I told someone once that being part of BE was like having 450 fairy godmothers. It's such a lovely feeling... truly magical.... to be connected to so much good will -- and the desire to give back is spontaneous, the way one experiences in the best of friendships, except in many cases these are people I've never even met."

idea"Two days ago you posted an email from me asking about homeowners' insurance. I've already had 15 responses. You provide an invaluable service. "

ideaIn response to my posting I got a call from a wonderful young man who came last night - spent the night - and was ultimately responsible for us getting our proposal in on time. This is at least the fourth time that the network has had a significant effect on my life. Unbelievable. If only Oprah knew the whole story!! Congratulations.
I need someone who can help me format a proposal electronically with all the attachment and appendices that are required by the government. The proposal is due tomorrow at noon - so this is an expedite.)"

idea" I just wanted to tell you: within 36 hours after sending you the posting about my Paris flat, I've already received 3 or 4 inquiries! Talk about effective! "

Each months' brainstorms are sent out to everyone who has ever attended a meeting (if they've chosen to be on the list). The brainstorming continues as women who were not at the meeting offer their suggestions through the Brain Exchange Yahoo Group.

In addition,The SF Bay Area Women's Brain Exchange offers its members a fantastic email posting service through our Yahoo group that handles requests from participants and keeps people connected between meetings.

The posting service requires the use of specific posting guidelines, detailed below. The posting service is available only to women who have attended at least one BE meeting and who have signed up with Yahoo! Groups. You send your postings to our Yahoo Group where they are moderated and then distributed to everyone on the email list. The suggestions in response to these postings go directly to the people who asked the questions. In this way brainstorming can continue way beyond the meetings. Here is just a sample of the kinds of postings that have elicited email responses.

Please help me find a:

computer expert
handy person
specialized software   
house sitter
place to live
life partner
support group

fabric store
graphic designer    financial advisor
French tutor
renter/buyer for my home
vacation rental


Please read this policy statement. It will tell you what kinds of postings are most likely to be approved. By all means, write me (anitagold@aol.com) if you have any questions about this or anything else.

Please include contact information (email address and/or phone number) in the body of your posting.

The posting service is available only to women who have attended at least one BE meeting and who have signed up with Yahoo! Groups.

To send a posting, send your email to: BREX@YAHOOGROUPS.COM

Postings are limited to events and activities that are in direct support of the business venture or professional enterprise of a Brain Exchange participant, posted by the participant; OR to help a BE participant find work or housing or to find a buyer or tenant for their house. Postings from non-BE members that offer housing or jobs are welcome, as well, as long as they are sent by a BE participant, since getting a job or finding a house will be to a member's benefit.

Because many BE members depend on house sitting gigs for income and a place to live, we don't send postings from non-BE members for house sitting placements.

It is NOT appropriate to make requests in support of others' events, promotion of their businesses or services, or to post job requests of non-BE members or requests for general information on their behalf. Sometimes I'll make a judgment call when a posting involves close family members.

All postings are limited to one per event, offering, request etc. I can't always catch duplicates, but I do my best.

What's new is that you can now post volunteer opportunities that relate to an organization or cause that you, personally, are involved in. It is NOT OK to ask for money or donations of anything except time (volunteer services) or goods.

THE POLICY regarding announcements/pronouncements concerning political, charitable or social action causes and events has not changed:

We are a group of women with diverse interests and passions and connections and it would be overwhelming to send emails promoting every service, cause, issue, event or project we care about.

Please keep postings short. Give the pertinent information, and suggest that anyone who is interested contact you for more details.
Please limit references/testimonials or other accolades – you can send them to people who ask for more information.
A posting that states the date, time and place of the event, with a short description and a suggesion of how to get more information is most likely to bring you responses.