Community: How do we build our communities?

Community is critical to our overall wellbeing and the decline of our connectedness is coming at the same time mental health issues are on the rise. Research from Washington State University found all ages suffer from social anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out) which are correlated with low self-esteem and low self-compassion. However, communities will dissipate if neglected. They need nourishment and dedication from its members through traditions, behaviours, and a sharing of knowledge. 

So how do we find our support systems, networks, and collectives?

Thanks to the following guest for participating:

Zahara’s Dream founder and author of Unbound, Verlaine-Diane Soobroydoo spoke to me this week:

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes.

Radha Agrawal shares how she created “Daybreaker” the wildly popular morning dance party concept, plus details on her new book “Belong.”

Books looked at this week:

Verlaine-Diane Soobroydoo: Unbound: Twitter Thoughts for the Heart and Mind

Seth Godin: Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us

Radha Agrawal: Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to episode 31 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

The pandemic has been a game changer when it comes to community building. Despite the huge isolation that came with lockdown, quarantines, and social distancing, we still all belong to a variety of different communities — physical and virtual. What we seem to look for is something in common.

So how do we build a community, find your people, and you support networks?

This week I spoke to Verlaine-Diane Soobroydoo, who is a New York-based writer and community builder. Unbound: Twitter Thoughts for the Heart and Mind is her first collection of thoughts, poetry and affirmations that have already reached over 500,000 people on Twitter. She is also the founder of Zahara’s Dream Inc., an impact initiative that builds positive change with and for young women worldwide. Watch the full interview on http://www.howtobe247.com, but here’s a snippet:

VERLAINE-DIANE SOOBROYDOO

Soobroydoo uses Twitter to reveal some deeply introspective thoughts, being vulnerable with her audience. In it, she says there is a liberating force when we allow the self to be vulnerable and to connect publicly with other people who are too, and that she found that there is a collective catharsis in undertaking this journey of becoming together.

For her, Twitter allowed many of us to conceptualize being in community with each other virtually and to create a safe space for open discussions despite the distance during the pandemic. She delves into lyrical poetry discussing her reckoning, the fall, ascension, whole again, new beginning, gratitude, and the end, adding her daily rituals to becoming unbound which helped her on her journey.

Soobroydoo found that letting go of ego was an important step to breaking barriers not only with other people but with ourselves. She recommends doing a lot of internal reflecting, starting with taking 5 minutes and writing down all the attributes you consciously make yours, starting with the sentence “I am…”.

Once done, she says understand why you attach yourself to such attributes and practice letting go of them in your heart and mind. What remains is you.

Next she advises saving yourself, we need to nurture that inner strength while leaving space to ask for help. So it’s a question of finding a balance to help the individual for the collective. When you’ve saved yourself ask for help within your community, family,
friends, etc. You now complement both
parts of the balance: the individual and the
collective.

In 2020, we witnessed how important compassion and loving-kindness are to sustain communities in the face of deep challenges. Hence she calls to listen to others with an open mind and heart and allow your responses to be rooted in compassion. And just like compassion, self-love is not contradictory to community and togetherness. Self-love complements them.

Hence she recommends take ten minutes and list five main positive attributes you appreciate about yourself. Commit to centering them in your life, daily, and witness self-love and positivity take over your life.

Also appreciating the people who surround us is a powerful way to be positive, happy and unbound. This means checking on your loved ones, family, friends and colleagues and writing them thank-you notes if they have positively impacted your life.

In the end, Soobroydoo says to be grateful, because it builds positive energy and allows us to face the day with grace as well as our peers. Take five minutes sitting to appreciate the new day or even at the end of the day.

Our next book is from American author, entrepreneur, and marketer Seth Godin with the book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us. The book reveals the most powerful unit of social organisation – the tribe or a group of people connected to cause or to each other who drive change in society together. Here he is at a TED talk.

SETH GODIN

It seems we can’t help it: humans need to belong to a collective larger than themselves. And whether you know it or not, you also are a member of at least one of them. All tribes share three components: a group of people, a common cause and at least one leader who represents and organizes the tribe.

A tribe’s shared cause leads its members to internalize the tribe’s values and ideas as their own. These internalized incentives make tribe members into driven believers instead of mere followers. This cause can be anything.

Tribes have always been with us, but with today’s technology, the number of tribes is exploding.

This is mainly due to the internet: tribes used to be local, but now, with the reach of the internet – and especially social media – geography is no longer a barrier to tribal growth.

And thanks to social media, a tribe’s influence is no longer directly correlated to its size, but to the cause for which it stands, and how it uses communication technologies. This is because today, real sustainable growth derives from the people who truly love your cause, advocate your values – and beat the social media drum for you.

This means you too can reach people by forming a new tribe. The first thing to know is that people need to be able to communicate intensely about their shared cause. This means that communication can’t just be vertical – between you and the individual tribe members – more importantly, it must be horizontal, between tribe members.

And with today’s technology, you have everything you need to facilitate both vertical and horizontal communication. Websites, blogs and social networks allow you not only to spread your cause, but also provide the room and the tools for your tribe to communicate, share ideas and organize. For example, you can use Basecamp to organize projects, and Twitter to share brief updates about developments. At the same time, these websites allow you to set ground rules for participation, and align everyone with your common vision by setting specific goals.

Creating a movement is about organizing an existing yearning into a way that tribe members can connect with each other, and form a movement. So what’s the secret to creating a tribe? Tell a story to people who want to hear it. Help them connect as a tribe. Lead the movement. And finally, make a change.

Tightening a tribe means bringing members closer together by facilitating communication and tightening their common bonds. You can do this by transforming a shared interest into one passionate goal, and by providing a platform for members to easily connect with each other.

This isnt just about being about sheep, following someone blindly. What we need in the world are more heretics: people who question the status quo and the existing dogmas, and take action without asking for permission. Organizations need more heretics to advocate change from the inside: because if you hire amazing people and give them freedom, they will do amazing things. And tribes need heretics as leaders to break into new territory and help change the world.

Our next book comes from Radha Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of the popular global morning dance community Daybreaker. Here she is on Austin After Hours with Taylor Ellison.

RADHA AGRAWAL

Agrawal calls herself a community architect, for all those who spend their days bringing humans together. The best architects think about materials, design, light and space, and Community Architects are no different. Communities are built, person by person, through thoughtful design and authentic, energetic connection points.

She defines [be•long•ing] as: a feeling of deep relatedness and acceptance; a feeling of “I would rather be here than anywhere else.” And she defines [com•mu•ni•ty] as: a group of three or more people with whom you share similar values and interests and where you experience a sense of belonging.

On Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human necessities from 1943, belonging sits right alongside the need for love. Hence she says the need to belong is fundamental! Recent studies have shown that belonging affects not just our emotional well-being but our physical well-being too.

From the bottom up, she changes them to reflect current society in which every stage community is important in order to move up the hierarchy. These are:

-basic human needs such as food, water, shelter, belonging
-physical and mental wellbeing
-purpose
-joy
-mindfulness

Even though we’re forced to strive for individuality, sharing is vital to our humanity. We wouldn’t have survived as a species otherwise.

The first step in belonging is becoming self-aware without the harsh critic we tend to carry around. She does this by looking at her personal history and creating a timeline in order to help her see the patterns in the choices she made. Recognizing all that got us here today and the events that shaped who we are will allow us to move forward with a clearer understanding of ourselves, what we want, and why.

It can be difficult to look back sometimes, especially if it has been challenging hence she recommends imagining your younger self and being gentle with them or doing this with a friend or family members.

She says to be aware of your red and green egos which either stands up for you or makes you feel afraid and holds you back. She recommends writing whenever you feel either of them affecting you. This is the same for the Mean Girl in you or mean whatever in you.

Instead try and look into your inspiration, gratitude, and curiosity or as she calls them your soul sisters, hence comparison becomes inspiration, perfectionism becomes gratitude, and judgement becomes curiosity. This means practicing gratitude daily.

She also says avoid labelling yourself, as human beings are complex and can be anything at any given time. Labels she says, can make us act out as those labels Agrawal says the only label you need is to connect to one another instead of separate. She also says to avoid bingeing on social media, because these companies profit on the attention economy so try and focus on doing something productive.

All of these apparently prepare us to become more intentional which is about being more thoughtful and purposeful about what we want. Hence the next part is looking at your values, interests, and abilities because if we don’t take the time to do a Personal VIA assessment for ourselves, we may end up in relationships that deplete us and in misaligned communities that don’t serve us. After this, writing in three columns what we’re looking for in others, what you’re not looking for and what qualities I need to embody to attract the friends you want.

She says the four stages of community are exploratory, participatory, outer core and inner core. Exploratory are the convenient groups easy to fall into, but also can start online with smaller meet up groups and events. It’s all about showing up. Hence she recommends finding five to ten communities over the next five to ten weeks that aligns with your values, interests, and abilities.

Participatory is giving back to your community whether it’s cooking for friends or volunteering. The Outer Core encompasses the larger group of friends or community (fifty to one hundred community members) whose values and interests are similar to yours and the Inner Core represents the three to ten friends who are the closest and make you feel the most secure. And don’t be afraid to introduce your friends to others in your life, you could create a community this way and be transparent- it doesn’t matter if they hang out with each other.

Spend real time cultivating your Outer and Inner Core relationships and truly make an effort to meet regularly, even if life gets busy. Every year, reassess your Outer and Inner Core Communities and ask yourself if these relationships are feeding you

In order to build the community, Agrawal recommends the CRAWL method which is core values which is the philosophical foundation for your community, rituals and traditions for inspiring loyalty and belonging, aesthetics or branding for some apparently make or break community, why you care and what other groups can you align with are must answer questions, and language is the most important form of communication which is the face of your community. This means knowing how to curate a good energy mix is the key to launching a magnetic community.

Nurture your community by listening, take initiative, be accountable, do things together, give gifts, inspire fun, play, and adventure, authentic communication, hugs, have fun and be active together.

But this doesn’t mean it will be without conflict. Reframe and embrace it by showing empathy, understanding where each person is when they’re coming into a conversation in the first place. She also says try to avoid FOBLO – fear of being left out by asking why you feel this way in the first place, tell your friends about it, check in with your esteem, focus on self-care, release all expectations, and remember it may not be about you or throw your own dinner party. Either way don’t run away from frustration and avoid gossip.

So to sum up:

Soobroydoo says in Unbound that Twitter can be an incredible platform for the women and men who dare to swim against the tide in the often-dangerous rivers of public discussions and authority. But it can also tap into creativity to connect, share and build dreams for justice, freedom, individual and collective liberation.

Godin says in Tribes that when something bothers you, be bold. Next time something bothers you about the status quo, don’t just sit there and be silent – use your voice and write a manifesto about the better future you foresee. Then publish your message online and share it with as many people as you can.

And Agrawal says in Belonging the world needs more belonging, more love, more community, and you are needed to wholeheartedly participate in receiving and sharing your energy with others.

I’ve been lucky to meet so many wonderful people over the past year through online communities. And if you get the chance, please join me @suswatibasu on Twitter Spaces or on Clubhouse every Friday at 2pm UK time as part of our weekly discussions on these topics and hit subscribe if you enjoyed this!

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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