Why Bring People Together?
There's something deeply satisfying about creating space for others to show up and be themselves. I firmly believe what Brené Brown found in her research: we are all wired for connection and belonging. From hosting Meetup groups to creating events in my free time, I'm driven by a desire to create a world where people find a place to belong. Below are a few ways I've done that, both in my personal life and professional career.
The Thoughtful Gay Man
Chicago, Jan. 2014 - Feb. 2016
The Thoughtful Gay Man was a Meetup group I created in Chicago. The group created space where gay men could grow, connect, and live authentic lives - together. It was a chance for gay men to encourage, uplift, and guide one another through this journey called life. We had vulnerable, meaningful conversations about topics that were important to us as gay men. Meeting guys in all stages of their life was a rewarding experience.
Number of events I hosted: 23
Types of events: Meet and greets, wine nights, guest speakers, personal growth workshops, facilitated topical discussions, book club discussions, open house, & yoga.
My Role In These Events
- Researched and coordinated booking guest speakers on relevant topics
- Facilitated discussions by coming up with icebreaker questions and setting meaningful ground rules
- Created a wide variety of events to keep participants interested: book clubs groups, casual wine events, workshops, and guest speakers
- Crafted events so every participant felt welcome and that they belonged - from the moment they walked in the door
- Scouted venues that would meet our needs: based on the expected number of participants and activities we'd be doing together
Three Wines: Wine Education
NYC, June - Nov. 2017
Three Wines was a Meetup group I started to educate colleagues about wine in a light-hearted and mindful way. I combined wine and mindfulness, which I call Winefullness. My intention was that people left each event with a full heart and a deeper knowledge of wine.
Number of events I hosted: 10
Event names: Red Summer Sippers, Pinot Noir, There You Are!, Savoring Southern Italy, The Bold & The Beautiful, Pop & Sparkle
My Role In These Events
- Designed a slide deck for each presentation, tailoring the information based on the wines presented and the level of knowledge of participants
- Presented information in a light-hearted way; answering any questions participants had during the presentation
- Recruited volunteers to help with setup: gathering wine glasses, plating cheese and crackers, and making sure each person had a place at the table
- Drafted engaging copy for each event, in order to entice participants to come back again and again
- Brainstormed creatives ideas and themes that would keep each event fresh and engaging
Community Team Meetings
As a former lead on the Community Team at Meetup, I was in charge of creating and emceeing our bi-weekly team meetings. The meetings needed an upgrade, so I spearheaded efforts to refresh them, in order to better serve our team as a whole.
Background: In addition to the events I designed, I facilitated two roundtable discussions with our community specialists, to solicit their feedback about our team meetings and ideas for how they could be improved. I believed it was important to get their honest feedback and to allow them to help shape the meetings go forward.
My Role In These Events:
- Reached out to potential speakers and presenters in other departments throughout the company
- Curated an agenda that provided a mix of information and presentation; ensuring each speaker or presenter was held to their time allotment, in order to stay on schedule
- Designed a framework for future events, so we didn't have to re-invent the wheel each time. This framework provided guidelines and values for what each event should include
- Generated ideas and topics that would educate the team, based on product changes that were happening
- Solicited questions ahead of time, in order to facilitate a seamless Q&A session with speakers
- Served as facilitator for several guest panels
Thirtysomething Urban Explorers
NYC, March-April 2017
Thirtysomething Urban Explorers was a group I experimented with for a few months. I created it because as a person new to NYC, and someone who loves to explore on foot, I wanted others to explore the city with. This was a lovely opportunity to meet folks I wouldn't have met in my normal day-to-day life.
Number of events I hosted: 3
My Role In These Events:
- Researched interesting and obscure places in the city that members might be interested in seeing
- Tailored each itinerary to give members an experience they would remember: Exploring Bushwick, Long Island City, and Roosevelt Island
- Recruited a guide, who lived in Bushwick, to give us valuable and interesting background about the neighborhoo
- Supported local businesses during our explorations
Books that influence my thoughts about community, welcoming, hospitality, and togetherness.
Even though not all of these books focus directly on community, they've shaped, in one way or another, what I believe are the ingredients that go into creating community and an atmosphere of welcome.
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
The Beloved Community by Charles Marsh
Take This Bread by Sara Miles
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
Civic Communion: The Rhetoric of Community Building by David Procter
Better Together by Robert Putnam
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter by Juanita Brown
The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz