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Hey, Kevin here, partner people in company and get together co-host today we have a special episode for you where I sit on the other side of the microphone.


So a few months ago, I had a conversation with my friend David Spinks on the Masters of Community podcast. We cover a couple of things. One, my journey in community building and bringing people together before people and company. Really why I care about this work. We also dig into some of our approach at people in company, like the questions we ask clients when they are looking to spark a community with their people, you know, where do you start?


And finally, I also want to share this episode with you, because we spend a good part of our conversation talking about racial injustice and how community leaders can take a stance. That's something I care about and hope you care about to give it a listen. If you like this kind of different sort of episode, let us know. Hit us up on Twitter. Instagram says an email sent me. A pigeon will also get back with our normal Q&A next week where we spotlight ordinary people building extraordinary communities.


Be safe. Be well. Take care, everybody. What's up, everyone? Welcome to the Masters of Community podcast. My name is David Spinks, founder of Cmax and VP of Community at Bevvy. Each week I bring you an expert who will help you take your community to the next level. Thank you so much for joining me. Let's dive into today's episode. All right.


Today's conversation is my very good friend Kevin when he's a co-author of Get Together, an amazing book all about how to build community. Highly recommend you pick it up. He's also the co-founder and partner at People and Company, where they work with brands like Nike and Porche to help them build their communities. Before that, he led community operations for Creative Mornings, one of my favorite communities in the world, and worked on community at the Peace Conference. In this conversation, we talk about a whole range of different topics.


He shares his holistic view what it takes to build a thriving community. He shares the three core questions that you need to ask before starting your community.


We also talk about racial injustice and why it's important for every community builder, every community leader, to take a stand in their communities and not to remain silent. We talk about what it's like to go from building community and house to becoming a community consultant. So lots and lots of great insights. He's such a wealth of knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I know you will, too. If you do enjoy it, share it with your friends and colleagues afterward.


All right. Let's dive into today's conversation with Kevin Quinn. Welcome to the show, man. Happy to be here, so happy to be here. Long time coming, a long, long time coming. I forgive each other a long time ago. Yeah, yeah.


Probably like within the five to 10 year range. Yeah. Back in New York, right? Yeah, back in New York. So there's at least eight years ago. I think your hair was different.


I had long hair again, but in the dream my cornea just looked like your standard white male short haircut.


Mm hmm.


Well, very excited to chat. I've been following you and your work, maybe even since before we really knew each other. And you've worked on a few of my most favorite communities in the world with feast and Creative Mornings. Why don't you just take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about your story and how you got to where you are today. A published author, consultant, community experts, lots of nice words to say about you.


What's your story?


How'd you get into the community and what brought you here today? Thanks. Excited to be here. I think the story of what I'm into today, sort of its roots are like the story of my family. My my mom and dad are both Vietnamese war refugees. They came over in 1975, separately sponsored by families from a church in the middle of Texas. And I think growing up, I saw them kind of fall in and out of social groups of their communities, sometimes being surrounded by, you know, the people who had sponsored them into taking a job in another state and and being a bit more isolated.


And I think that combined with me growing up in suburban Colorado, 90, 95 percent white school really made me really aware of this kind of people side of things, you know, aware of how I was spending my time, who I was spending it with, who I wasn't spending it with.


And, well, my first loves just became organizing, organizing events, activities, get involved in student government early. And I think it was my way to really insert myself into whatever the social things that were happening. If I wasn't sure I was going to be invited at a time, I didn't really feel like I fit in then like, why not be producing or planning the thing that I like? I'm always invited. And that theme really stuck with me.


This theme of like, you know, live events, bringing people together, organizing campaigns, activities, and even during, like engineering school, I ended up really focusing on like half my time probably on campus events running this, you know, group that put on like one hundred concerts and movie screenings and all sorts of things throughout the year. And when it came time to like start my career, I ended up gravitating more towards, like that sort of stuff that really set me up.


And that led me to, you know, producing conferences like the first conference on social innovation. Eventually we're going to build out the community, create a mourning's building out that really like chapter based kind of grassroots community and. I think a switch for me was when you this is see women, Jess Imbrie came in and they had this idea around a new professional women's network called Changemaker Chat. And it's just as they started to ask for advice around, you know, how they build up their community and what they could do, I sort of realized that this wasn't you know, this wasn't just about me and what I cared about.


If communities or simply groups of people who keep coming together of what they care about, there are a lot of different people care about a lot of different things. And I would eventually kind of move on and join forces with my current business partners, Bailey and Kai, and start people and company write this book and really just focus on, you know, can we help individuals and organizations better bring their people together, better bring galvanize the people that they care about and they work with to kind of do more together.


Love it so much of your story resonates with me as well. My experience, I feel like probably most people who build community for a living today were just like lonely kids who didn't fit in.


Yeah, yeah. They're like that. Well, no, you're not going to welcome me in your group. I can carry my own group. Can't kick me out of my own group.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Knowing sort of the what it's like to be in and out, you know what it's like to be with others and maybe others I think is sort of like a simmering well motivating factor in my myself and others bellies.


Same, same. And yet, you know, had two immigrant parents. They both moved to the US. I was born a year later. My mom barely spoke English. She's in Israel. My dad was like a super reserved Englishman who like didn't need any friends. He was one of those people, just like I got my my wife and my kids. That's all I need is the he said in a British accent. Now, your accent, that was.


And, um, and yeah, like, I just really struggled to fit in and I did the same thing in college. I was like organizing events and building community and I was social chair my fraternity and then eventually just turned it into working with businesses. Yep, yep, yep, yep. So same path. And so now you've written the book and so Get Together has been out for what, about a year now.


Yeah, the year will be in August and we're thinking about what we do for the one year anniversary, but probably around. Yeah. Nine or ten months.


So great book. I've read it and referred to it often and shared it with other people. Thank you. Um, just has a very simple way of explaining how communities are built and formed. Lots of amazing examples in there from businesses and different kinds of books, different kinds of organizations. What's the response been like so far to the book? Is it everything you hoped for? What's been surprising about it? The most surprising thing for me was. Sort of the power of clear language.


I think for me, when I set out to write it, I didn't realize what spending all this time sort of choosing the words to describe what I cared about and how to do it would really impact me in sort of reinvigorating how much I want to work on this stuff.


Words matter, words matter the bit, the better I am. If, if, if, if what matters is what we do and what we do is informed by, you know, how we communicate to each other, what we plan to do, what we want to do, then the words that we equip ourselves with matter and writing, get together this guidebook on how to build a community and trying to keep it both inspiring and instructional like this play with that blend and working not just by myself, but with my co-authors and then many rounds of editors to like to crystallize that sort of language.


Was has. Yeah, it has has made me feel even more equipped to um. Yeah. Continue to try to help people get their people together. As far as like the response, I think we've what's wonderful is there are like all those, those things where it's like, yes, a little, you know, some some new business comes in and there are sort of new people like dropping into our lives, like new potential collaborators. I think the most heartening thing about the response has been the really the breadth of people.


You know, I had hoped to write this book in it. It was afraid to write one that tried to talk about community building in a way that it could be read by a CEO or CMO and really a corporate context. It could also be read by that person who's going to start a career pool club.


It can also be read by, you know, my mom sort of like volunteer coordinator at the time you worked with and to, like, try to do all that sounds maybe awesome, maybe like very it sounds terrible, but we wanted to and and and those people, that sort of variety of people continue to reach out to us and saying, like, hey, you know, these these this book is really inspiring.


This book is helping me think about, you know, what I do next. Yeah. Thank you. And that's that's that's the greatest part.


I love that you bring up kind of the power of language as well. It's something that I believe in a lot. I think whenever people say it's just semantics, I'm always like semantics matter. Yeah, semantics are everything. That's how we communicate. It's how we understand each other. And I think for the community industry, for people who are building community, the you know, ten years ago when, you know, you and I, we're starting off in this space, there wasn't really good language on what does it mean to build community?


What is a community? What is how is the community fit into a business? What are the steps you take for building community and community? It was just like very feeling kind of thing. And people would kind of talk about how it made them feel, but they wouldn't be able to articulate specifically what it means to build a community. And that's where a lot of people it was like a misunderstood concept because everyone had such drastically different definitions for every element of community.


Yeah, and I I find myself trying to steer away from phrases like sense of community and like the feeling of community or because at least when I you know, I'm trying to work with someone to help them figure out, yeah, what can you do more with your people? How do you build up this community? I find it helpful just to focus it on, like, the definition I used before. You know, a community is a group of people.


Well, let's just focus on that. A group of people who are going to come together, keep coming together or something they care about. And if we zero in on that, who and start to dig into, like, why they might come together and what they might do together, where we we move much quicker away from like what is these old definitions we have in much more into like action around what we the outcome that we want to make, which is like to help folks collaborate more effectively, help one another towards some sort of like purpose or some sort of common goal.


So you focus more on, like the tangible outcomes rather than emotional outcomes. It's less of I feel like I belong and more like I came to this community to learn something or to get in shape or to network. And how do you focus on those specific outcomes?


Yeah, and that might be my bias. That's like the that's the master's mechanical engineering. Just being like where what are the pieces?


What are the inputs to this system that is and you know, what is done and what are the outputs of it?


Well, I think that's it's a great topic because I think it's that's a question that a lot of community professionals, people who are doing this for or an organization does even have to be a business, even if, like, you want to build community on a serious level. Right. Like one that you have a lot of intention. A lot of you want to be organized, you want to be structured, you're not just like, you know, throwing it together willy nilly.


This is a question that comes up for a lot of people because like you and me, we build we build community because, you know, maybe we're trying to fill this gap from our childhood.


But it's more of this notion of giving people a feeling of belonging thing.


And sometimes a community professionals, I feel are uncomfortable looking at it in a very pragmatic. How do you scale how do you systematize it? You know, like they don't want to look at people as numbers. They want they don't want to look at people as systems. They want to look at people as people. But then the flip side of that is they struggle to really operationalize and scale their community, which is what you did. I created Mourning's, by the way.


You were head of operations there, right. So maybe speak to that. Like, how do you how do you navigate that balance between the personal and the operational and what are the things that you need to focus on to operationalize a community?


Yeah, you know, as we talk about this, I realize that perhaps my kids have been partner with someone who really comes, like, biased on the other side. The feelings, I think about my current business partner, Bailey, who would, you know, immediately raise your hand to find that. I think about the founder, Creative Mornings, Tina Roth Eisenberg, who really has like that spirit, dialed in one of my heroes.


You know, the question on like how to maybe one, how to balance this idea of, like, the feelings and the structure. One way I think about it is, uh, I focus on, you know, if you ask me to go start a community, I think there are three core questions I'm going to start with and be like, all right, who we bring together. Why would they be interested in coming together and what are they going to do together to go realize that purpose?


And it's like three deceptively simple questions that need to be like, you know, hypotheses need to be developed and they need to be tested. Uh, with that, I think when we get into really that like the why and the what part of it it is important to ask, like, what is the you know what how how does this community feel like? How do the activities around this feel? Because you don't have to, like, reinvent the most amazing activity never done.


There are you know, you can host small group circles, you can run a book club. It doesn't have to be like something technologically. They like you know, it could be simple putting pieces in place. But if you take a community like encamp camp, which brings together teachers around sort of like grassroots professional development, all these UN conferences where teachers teach teachers, you know, the format around it and how it scales is is elegant, you know, like having local leaders, having a format that sort of anybody can adopt.


But the feeling of is part of what makes it really special, because the feeling of Seedcamp is empowerment.


When these teachers, these K through 12 educators, day in and day out, are getting told what to do by the state, you are getting having so-called experts come in and doing professional development that you don't really have don't really have like the type of sort of background or classroom experience that teachers would like to hear from, to walk into an ed camp and to feel be treated with respect to be ask, what do you want to learn about right now to feel empowered and all of those little design decisions around that event, you know, even from the language around it to like optimize towards that makes that really special.


So I think it is a, you know, a marriage between the two, but kind of one without the other. Either you have like the another soulless activity webinar or whatever to participate in, or you have something that may feel good, but not like lead to the outputs of perhaps, you know, skill development that you are really looking for.


Right. Yeah, I wanted to get on this because I think it's a really important thing for every community, professional or any community builder to figure out is is how to scale but scale while still maintaining that thing that made your community special in the first place and made it feel unique and personal and meaningful to people. And I feel like that's probably where it gets lost sometimes, or that's the risk that people feel like they take if they if they organize something.


And it felt very spontaneous and fun and authentic and I mean so creative. Mourning's is how many chapters?


Six hundred. You know, by now they're I think they're like two hundred and fifteen to some extent. Yeah. I was there until like we passed the one hundred mark got two hundred and fifty cities.


I've been to creative mornings events and like consistently they have that feeling that there's a feeling at creative morning's events and there's like this set of rituals that happen at the start of every event. And and so but how do you take that from like the one of. Vans to two hundred and fifty events. How do you take that from the ten person message thread to the ten thousand person forum? Yeah. What are the things that you think are really important for going from that first micro kernel of a community and then bringing that to exponentially more groups?


Yeah, you know, the analogy we use in the book is that, um, building a community is like building a fire. You know, communities feel magical, fire feel magical, but they don't come together by magic. There really is like there can be an order of operations you can adopt to, you know, create a community that burns bright. And it's and there's still this element of, like, nurturing it. Right. This is an element of like seeing what comes in and and feeding it in the right way.


But really, I think there are sort of like core steps towards starting something and making it bigger. Um, you know, we break it up into three phases. There's due to continue to go down the fire analogy. It's like, are you sparking the fire? Like are you just figuring out, like, how you get people together and what they might do together?


Are you stoking that fire or are you, uh, you know, are you figuring out the sort of the rituals, the pieces of identity, you know, whether they be visual or language, you know, are you trying to figure out how to attract the most like, you know, authentic people that really resonate with the purpose of this community doing that to sort of like begin to grow this group and build a vibrant community. And then the third phase being like pass the torch sparked, spark the flame, stoke the fire, pass the torch where you are trying to build a resilient community.


I think part of it is growth. Like we talk about scale. If you want to build this and bring this to many cities or you just want to reach not 100 hundred people, but a thousand people. But I also think it's about, uh, you know, passing the torch is really rooted in developing leadership within the community. Great leaders create more leaders, creating leaders that, um, both can like, absorb and embody what makes this community really special, but also evolve it, you know, also bring their own bring their own remix to what is happening so you can, you know, respond to everything that changes.


You know, I mean, like, I was you know, I'm watching Cmax and CMCs connected. You know, covid-19 takes over our lives.


Yeah. Forcing, you know, practically speaking, forcing a lot of physical events to stop. So if you don't have the leadership to the distributed leadership to begin to adapt and think, you know, we can do some of these things online, you know, maybe we can do some of the stuff asynchronously, maybe we can focus on this other thing that is around building up, you know, the community profession. Without all of those minds working on that sort of thing, you aren't going to like the community won't won't continue to thrive.


It's a great example. And we were blown away. When you see Misconnect is our local event program that's all run by volunteer leaders. And so we were blown away when, you know, before we even adapted, they were already like, oh, we were already setting up a Zoome event. We're going to do it remotely. And we just learned from seeing what they were all doing organically. And that led us to throw, you know, seems global, which was the larger event we ended up doing with all of their help.


So, yeah, that's a great example.


That's such a great point with, you know, I think, you know, you're doing something right. This is like at a certain stage, you if you spark the flame and you have something going, but if you are able to be more of a, uh, a spotlight or almost like a, uh, instead of, uh, you know, building this community for people you can, like, notice and figure out how to build it with them, you can start to see, you know, what leaders in the community are already doing and say like, hey, we need more of that.


You know, we have X person in Madrid and they are doing this sort of thing.


And that's really, really special. We should figure out how to Templer ties that are codify that. We should spotlight that. We should figure out how to translate that.


I feel like when you can reach that, that's, I think, a strong sign of, like you've got something that's going to live on beyond, you know, beyond your everyday sort of like work as an organizer.


So I know that building with your community, not for the community, is a consistent theme in your book and something I've heard you mention a lot. Do you think that so if I'm starting a community today, should I be thinking about building with a community from day one or if I'm just getting it started, am I building for the community? But then once I figure out that, like, first experience that really worked, that's where I start opening up opportunities for members of the community to create and build on it.


But at first it really is me as a leader, you know, quote unquote, sparking the flame.


I think it's a bit more of the latter, though, you know, there are plenty of cases different, however, you know, like I'll give you an example. So my my friend Nate Nichols runs an agency called Pallette Group. And with coronavirus happening or comes down and he and he decides we are sort of like freelancers and the agencies, what are we going to do right now? And decides to spin up like a freelancer cyber summit with the tagline around, like how you know, what the F do we do right now?


How do we like fine working KERS on this podcast? I honor because I think it actually worked like how T.F. Oh it's literally I just want you to know. Yeah. This is, this is a safe space for profanity.


And you know, over the course of that first cyber summit event which she I think was, you know, it took effort to, you know, it takes someone willing to take the first action to say, I'm going to say, hey, this is what we want to do. Right. And I am inviting the people. I'm calling the people. So a lot of like building for the community. And they would eventually have roundtables and breakouts and all that sort of stuff.


And then, you know, in the last like as you know, after the murder of George Floyd and with sort of this like the surge and the reckoning with kind of racism, especially with in the US, Nate was like next topic, freelance or cyber summit is an action like, you know, naked Nate as like a black man has this crazy, you know, story of how all of the barriers he had to, like, kick over in order.


It's like be in the current position. He is. But with this summit, which is happening in about three days on Al Sharpton action, uh, he was able to sort of put this call out with like, hey, who wants to host a who wants to run part of this? You know, who wants to collaborate on this? Who wants to run a workshop around, you know, how to be an ally for X, for X community or how to talk about race to H.R. And, you know, it's happening a couple of days and it spun up within like over two weeks and there going to be launching like an Al Sharpton action pledge.


And it really is like it is not just Nate is not just Stephy. His wife is not just his team. It really is like now the community starting to like piece it together. But it did take him to sort of spark that flame himself and that kind of plant a flag and say like, hey, this is something I want to do, is who I want to bring together. This is the purpose of it. I'm putting a lot of effort into this first one, but I'm going to be very open to participation and contribution and support and collaboration moving forward.


Mhm. Yeah. It's such an interesting topic I think. I agree. I think like if you're building community from scratch you're setting that first example the same way that later you're looking for the examples to spotlight when you're getting it off the ground, you're setting that first example and then that, that gives others something to follow and learn from and build upon. And sometimes that's another thing that I see a lot of community builders sometimes struggle with, is they don't want to make it about them.


They want to make it about the community, especially if you're someone who's coming in to manage a community that's already been established. Sometimes I feel like it's hard for community builders to take their seat as a leader and use their own voice and use their own example, use their own leadership. You know, and it's a balance between what I guess you would call servant leadership of just like I'm in the background, I'm facilitating. I'm just like I want all of you to do everything.


And I'm just here to support you versus like taking the seat as an example yourself and as a leader that other members of the community can follow.


Yeah, you know, when I talk to folks, I'm looking to hire a, you know, a community leader or a community manager. One of the things I tell them is whether you plan it, expect it or not, this person will de facto become a leader within the community. They will, because from the sheer fact that they are starting to connect the dots, that they are at the point of contact for things, they will become this kind of there'll be someone that people look at and see as like a reflection, an example for what this community does, who it brings together and why it exists.


Kind of a tall order, but it's you know, I think that's the reality. And there's both a responsibility to, um, you know, listen and honor like the legacy of a community as well. But also, you know, step up as, yeah, I have a voice and a responsibility here to encourage certain things, to discourage certain things that like do not make this community safe, to take action, because that is like, you know, that's that's part of the job.


Yeah, I love that. Framing for companies are hiring for a community role is like, well, this person's going to be a leader representing your brand and they're going to be an example for the rest of your community follow. So that's a. Great way to kind of vet when you're interviewing people and ask yourself, like, is this someone that I would see as a leader in our community?


Yeah, and it's a great, great segue into another topic that we want to dive into, which was how community professionals and community builders can take that seat as leaders and be allies right now, in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight for racial justice, the fight against racial injustice, it's something that we we've been trying to do and it's something I've been kind of navigating, grappling with as, again, setting the example of Cmax, for example, a network of twenty thousand community professionals.


And so we wanted to not just, you know, take our own action and be an example, but how do we activate and mobilize other community builders, other community professionals to take a stand, to commit to action to to do something, to use their leadership to impact this change in their communities. And, you know, we got like kind of like, I would say, mixed response, like not a huge response, a pretty good response.


A few people that even would say, like, we don't want to bring politics into our community and our community is just focused on music. But that's what one member said is like we're music community on this specific genre of music and we pride ourselves on being a space that you can come to escape and just focus on music and not have to worry about politics or other issues in the world. And so we're not going to say anything or do anything.


Mm hmm. Well, first of all, thank you for, you know, thinking about this work and doing something towards it. It's it's, you know, important. And it has lacked the urgency. And I think about my you know, my own reflection, like a.. Blackness has been around my entire life. And it's only the last three weeks where I feel the necessary urgency to do something about it, for it to, like, simmer in a certain way.


And that's a that's a testament to community leaders and, you know, capital CEO like community organizers who have been pushing that movement forward to this. Like, you know, to this tipping point. I'm I don't have sort of solutions to this. I have ideas. Know one thing that the first like kind of level set that comes to mind. I just you know, I've been starting to read Ibram Kennedy's book, How to Be an Anti-racist and trying to buy those sold out.


Oh, I guess it stemmed from the beginning. And then again and I realize it's like a thousand pages and how long it is, but it's bigger than books I'm comfortable with.


Well, you know, one of the just early points he makes, it struck me, was that either you're taking a racist stance, you're taking an anti racist stance, like there isn't there isn't something in between because people are getting hurt most urgently. Black people are getting hurt and in large part due to complicit ness of people like myself, you know, not taking a stand against racism when I could have and this is and I say in stand being taking a stand in all of these, like small and big ways from, you know, the recruiting at your company to the language that is being used to like and all of these sorts of ways.


So, you know, I just, you know, first with that the the idea around, like, we don't want to bring in politics, I would say, like, I'm not talking about politics. I'm talking about safety. I'm talking about like, uh, livelihood. And I'm talking about, you know, using whatever platform you have.


I think if you are a person who works with or shepherds people, you you know, you have a responsibility to, uh, to be anti-racist, to essentially, like, take the steps that you can to dismantle white supremacy.


And even in the context of like a music community, there are things that there are like racist ideas that inform racist policies that lead to people getting hurt and losing lives and being disenfranchised in this snowball type way. Um, you know, one thing that comes to mind is my my buddy, um, Sean Evaristo runs a dance studio and a dance brand out of L.A. called Movement Lifestyle. And they like are true participants in shepherds within like the dance community.


And they've you know, they pulled together a consortium of folks that have decided to, like, stop calling Urban Dance. Urban Dance. That's right. Yeah. And, you know, I think that's just like a, you know, aid and action that they have, like, rallied around. That isn't, you know, isn't it supposed it's like, let's go. Well, we need to go set up a place to talk about politics. It's like no examining what you do with.


They like Scharper sort of magnifying glass and and seeing like, yeah, what what changes can we start making now, right?


Yeah. To build on that, I think, like, something I've been thinking about is kind of forming again, the language around that didn't necessarily have before, but it's kind of been bubbling around is that D.C.I. Diversity, equity, inclusion is inseparable from community. Hmm. So if you are building a community. DEA is already a part of it, whether intentional or not, because what you're doing is creating a space for humans to interact and this, you know, micro aggressions, the language we use, the way we treat each other, the the the outcomes of systemic racism show up in the way we interact with each other.


And so if you are hosting a space for people to interact, you are creating a space where those actions are being taken and you have a responsibility and an opportunity to become aware of those things, to address those things, and to make your little microcosm, your little space a little bit better than the average in the rest of the world. Yeah. And what that actually does, again, to your point of safety, it's not about it's not about politics.


It's about like how do we create the best community possible? And to me, the best community possible is a community where everybody that should be in this group is able to be in this group and feel one hundred percent welcome included, feel like they're truly a part of the community.


And the default, the standard, the status quo right now, if you did nothing, is that they probably won't be because the status quo and the whole world is that they are not. Yeah. Yeah, you know, there are there are cases of of communities that started out of a certain place of positivity that have spun into extremely toxic communities that exclude and hurt others. You know, I'm thinking about a story with the there's a Reddit thread that ended up, you know, spinning off and becoming all of this that, as you know, really propelled a good amount of like violence and hate.


And I think it may be in the same way that other professionals, whether it be perhaps a doctor, needs to, like, take responsibility for what they do as an intervention and understand, like, you know, how to do so in a safe way to mitigate the impacts of, like, you know, mitigate the impacts on health, on your own health.


If they, like, do perform a surgery on you. You as a community leader, as a community manager, as an organizer, as a people person, you are. Yeah. You are organizing people to interact, as you had said. And it's about time to like own the part of the the responsibility, the code, the job, which is to, uh, take an anti-racist stance and, uh, make sure that even these things that might seem like small slights or like a little toxic corner of your group, those things are adding up and continuing to propel system for that is hurting a lot of people.


It's like, you know, it's an active role 100 percent.


Yeah. It's like if you're not taking action, you're not only not solving the problem, but you're opening up risk for perpetuating the problem or even making it worse. Yep. Yep.


You know, back to we were talking a bit about leaders and scale. And I think one sort of strategy or tactic to throw in the mix here is that leadership roles come in all shapes and sizes. You know, if I'm not ready to pace the next run at my run club, I can maybe lead the stretch. I can maybe lead the meditation, I can maybe do announcements. I could lead the cheers, you know. And I think with this, there's, uh, perhaps like the leaders of current communities don't have to look at themselves as like I am the only one that needs to do something, but I need to carve out the role, the space.


So we are actively looking for this, you know what I mean? Actively working on, uh, dismantling white supremacy and fighting racism. And so, you know, look to look to new leaders, look to like who in your community would can lead on this even more effectively than you can. That can work with you on it. That is raising their hand, too, and, you know, put real resources and support behind them. Um, I don't I don't have specific, like examples to call out.


But, you know, I feel like some of the corporate response has been frustrating to me because, you know, I believe that these organizations are in such a you know, beyond just donating money, they organize huge groups of people. Right. And I think the most effective way to make this change is to like go and work with your people, to go fund your people who have ideas for certain projects, who are like already doing that work to like give them their, you know, their volunteer days.


You know, they're their one week paid volunteer days and like, pointed towards a certain, you know, points for certain cause or to like up that, like, ability to, you know, up that matching donation.


There are all these ways that one can, like, really supercharge, you know, the people you are bringing together to fight this fight. And I feel like there's like of like a lack of creativity or ownership over, you know, being down to do it.


And just like leaning into a discomfort, I feel like it's just uncomfortable for a lot of business leaders or business people or brands. Brands aren't used to the messy, emotional aspect of these like human things. And and that's like the crux of this whole community industry movement is like it took businesses a long time to even really feel comfortable with. All right, we're going to build community, which inherently means giving up control to other people. Brands are so used to controlling as much as possible, you know, reducing risk as much as possible.


But that comes at the level that comes with a limitation of not being able to grow what you're doing and not being able to evolve. And this is a great example, and I love that that call out that like, you don't even have to have all the answers for how to improve die within your organization. Like there's probably people within your organization who care about it. And you need to give them a platform to be able to take action and advocate and is one hundred percent.


It's a lot of companies out there who are making these grand donations. And it's like, look at your own backyard first. Like there's a lot you can do. Again, set a good example, you know, the statement and the donation is great, but if you're not committing to those actions in your own home, then it's kind of hard to take seriously.


Yeah, my buddy, uh. Carl Summersville, who used to run this communicant Inner Glow meditation committee, he had Instagram something yesterday that was just like that discomfort. You're feeling like that's the point. And then I was I was texting and I live in New York. And so there was a Brach Black Trans Lives Matter rally and the Brooklyn Museum. Yeah, but I was yesterday and I just saw a demonstrator walking by with the sign that just said, fuck your comfort.


I was like, yeah, yeah, that's that. And, you know, as far as like the one of the most common challenges that people and companies sees when we, um, when we run sprints in labs and coaching with organizations, trying to build communities, start a sort of community effort. Is this, um, is this fear of giving up control? Is this, like comfort with, uh, allowing people to take a part of their brand, own it and remix it?


And, you know, you take a it's just hard to imagine, you know, an extreme example is like a luxury brand, like a Chanel, like, are they really going to be ready to. And, you know, I can make an assumption that, like based on how carefully designed the things are, the idea of having a lot of people who are, you know, not, uh, that you cannot control propelling forward whatever effort is like, scary.


But I think with unless you do that, unless you like, push yourself a bit more towards that side of the spectrum where you are willing to allow people to meaningfully participate, you are allowing people to organize, whether it's, you know, gatherings or activities or being able to, like, actually speak honestly in forums like all these things. Unless you're willing to do that or at least that control valve a bit, you're not going to realize, you know, the fire's not going to build.


You're not going to enable people to feel true ownership over this kind of. Yeah, this community, this group of people and shaping it and without feeling ownership. And you know why? Why do I want to keep putting my time towards this?


Totally. Yeah. I kind of think about it almost like like you're bowling and you have the bumpers up. It's like, you know, you can give people these kind of guide rails of the bumpers. So it's like stay within these bumpers, but within the bumpers, like go crazy, like get creative, have fun, go up, go down, do something different. And the companies is like you can kind of see how their bumpers start off, you know, really, really close to each other like freedom.


And then they're like, oh, whoa. Like they're actually doing some really cool stuff within this range. Like what if we open it up a little bit more and and and people can get more creative and then sometimes they open it up and someone does something really messed up and and they're like, oh shit, we got to we got to fix this.


But then you realize like, oh no, that was just like one person who, like, you know, wasn't aligned on values or didn't understand something. And then you realize, OK, well, we can even have bumpers that people can go over. But if they do go over, you know, we can moderate or manage it or facilitate and make sure it can be brought back, you know, to alignment. Yeah.


And some at some point someone's going to do something crazy, like they're going to be like, I'd rather I want to make a popcorn stand like behind the bowling lane and that people are going to like really enjoy that. And you'll be like, wow, we didn't think about that when we set up the bumpers. But that's amazing. And we should probably we should probably just really support that and empower that happen.


Yes, exactly. Well, so kind of kind of sagging a little bit, but kind of on this track of companies not feeling confident, giving up control all the time. Um, you've made that that transition, that leap that I've also done in the past of going from in-house community to consulting. I know a lot of people listening are either consultants, community consultants themselves, or maybe they're thinking about that one day, like going from work, being a community manager and house to working with many different companies, helping them build their communities.


What was that transition like for you?


Messy and fulfilling are two words that come to mind, I think, you know, honestly, when I started just when I started freelancing after a position at a startup and like twenty, fifteen, twenty sixteen, I was I might just personal journey. I was trying to pull apart, like, what is the stuff that I really want to do? What do I not want to do? What do I not want to do because I'm just burned out or do I not want to do because I genuinely don't like that or do I not want to do because I was doing it before in a different system or environment?


And, you know, I took along a lot of different types of projects. Some worked out, some didn't, some paid, some didn't, and kind of came back to center. That's like, you know, at the end, I really do care about sort of like bridging gaps in this universe by helping people get people together and transitioning into sort of consulting has been, um, I realized the difference between practicing and maybe like teaching or coaching.


Like they're just they are different modes and they are different skill sets that can be developed. And I've realized that, you know, my sort of most effective role now is not to share. It's not to like share the best practices that I've learned before. It really is to my role as a, you know, as a consultant, as someone who runs this type of company, as someone doing strategy is as like a trail guide. And I think, you know, a people and company, the big goals like help help organizations make better bets when they're investing in building a community.


There are no promises. There are no perfect plans. But what we can do is try to bring as the best world class inspiration as well as, you know, hold on the ideas and bring a process to help people figure out what is it. How do you how do we start articulating, like, who we want to bring together? You know, why might they come together providing the scaffolding to help them have those discussions and figure that out and then, you know, move into generating, you know, creative ideas around those activities that they might host or organize.


And then a process and a plan for how to, like, prototype those gut, check them with, like, real potential community members and start testing them. And that whole, like, summation of that practice, I just say is like there's a if someone if you're you know, if you've had a career in, you know, organizing in community management and you want to start consulting, I would say, like you've done this already, it's really challenging part to like gather all this practical knowledge and experience and understanding of, like the ups and downs of doing that.


And they're really like great stuff in the really shitty stuff. And now you're going to have to start, like, picking apart what you did and what, like, holds true and what doesn't and start creating, like, you know, really facilitating ways for the clients you work with, too, because they're going to know their people much better than you do, facilitating days for them to kind of dig into that knowledge and apply your sort of ideas and frameworks in order to come up with really compelling like strategies and plans to build up their community to making.


I think that shift is has been the big thing for me from like practitioner to coach. Yeah, I mean, we see that a lot even at CNN summit and our events, you know, we've had hundreds of people speak and and it's not uncommon for someone to be a very experienced community professional that just has never spoken at an event before. Then it's the first time that they've had to take what they've done and and be able to teach it to someone else.


And they and then they realize, like, oh, shit, that's really hard to do. Yeah. You know, they've they've kind of like learned this stuff. It becomes a little bit innate and natural. They they understand it. But to explain it to someone else in a way that they can understand and apply is actually really difficult. Yeah.


You've you've done a lot of workshops. You know, we we that's like a familiar format and people and company land. And to me it gets down to even the minute details of like how do you ask people these questions if I want to like it's like how do I how do I ask the right question?


How much sort of structure or scaffolding do you need to, like, answer this? And how do I provide, like, effective criteria for you to, like, evaluate your ideas?


Like, what are some of the things like I would love to get a little glimpse into what a workshop with people in company looks like. And you've worked with some amazing clients, Nike, who are some of your clients working on a few of their names or now?


Yeah, or some folks like Nike, Porche, some amazing non-profits like the Surfrider Foundation and the Ed Kemp Foundation and now doing some really interesting work on internal communities. So. Maybe names that like being employees, yeah, internal meaning employees, so Jessey, which is the investment arm of like Singapore, the nation, you know, as thousands of employees and how to keep those folks connected.


So you go into these organizations and you you teach a workshop that helps them frame their community strategy. Is it just a workshop or do you have, like, follow on kind of services that you offer as well?


Yeah. So, you know, we there are three buckets to our work. There's sprints, there's labs and coaching labs a bit sort of interchangeable with workshop, but hanging in sort of that like labs sprint side. It's never the workshop is never the workshop. There's sort of this upfront work around. I think the common hunch or the common problem that a client will come with is we have a hunch we can do something more with a certain set of people.


It's and we want to maximize our chances of success. You know, I've done work with Etsy, but it'd be like Etsy saying, like we have these sellers that are absolutely amazing in our marketplace. We're not doing enough with them.


We think we can do something more with them, whether it's so we have a group of people who seem really committed and motivated. But yeah, we don't know what to do. How do we get them going? Yeah. Yeah. And for us, you know, there's if we look at what needs to be accomplished, I think one is sort of a level set on how communities start and grow.


Out of all of my coaching meetings, it's really hard to strategize about community building without an understanding of the steps involved to build a community. How do you start talking about, like what you need more of and what you need less of? So and then in addition to that, it's doing some upfront work with them to figure out like, all right, who specifically are we talking about here? Is it all sellers in the marketplace? Is it like a couple of different types?


You have some hunches and you're not really sure. And you want to explore some different directions for like where you want to take this work. And then we will, you know, with the labs will facilitate kind of like a two day deep dive with a cross-functional team, sometimes a cross-functional team, plus community members to explore their hunches around what they might want to do. So if it's like, hey, we have these three different slots of like who we want to perhaps, like invest more in, we'll be like, great, we're going to break up into three groups and we're going to really like blow this out.


We're going to we're going to look at each one to be like, hey, why do you want to get your people together?


Here are like kind of sort of nine common themes as bricks to start getting you started, but have that conversation and say, like, are you really optimizing this community around? You know, is it around accountability to continue to help, like sort of like celery, stick with like build, you know, creating new products? Is it more around inspiration, sort of new ideas so they can, like, continue to create, you know, great things, Zamara emotional support to deal with, like what's really hard about being a seller.


And then from there, you know, running folks through exercises around what? So if we if we've isolated like this is a hunch around the community that we can start or like sort of a guiding starter, guiding light or purpose. What are you what are the activities we might start to organize? And I use activities really widely to mean everything from challenges to Q and A to Unconference is to, you know, you name it. There are all these different formats that one can use and maybe some are more, uh, some are more impactful, depending on what type of community you are hoping to build.


But, you know, we would communicate what is the most know the top criteria for like what makes a really successful activity and then create the space for folks to workshop these and gut check them and then eventually with some clients hanging on as coaches with them through the testing process. So it's like, all right, we've isolated these now, like this is sort of a testing plan over the next six weeks, like let's kind of go through this cycle. People and company will be around for these kind of like regular check in so we can course.


Correct. And as I said before, try to make this smart as best we can to like make this community building investment successful.


Hmm. That's really cool. What are the things that you look for to know if the experiment was successful?


Yeah, I think one of the things that is challenging to look for is retention. So I think that's where a lot of people's mind goes, like I believe a community is in a community unless people keep showing up. And so, like a good measure of the health, there's like, do people continue to show up? Are they continue to participate in a meaningful way? But early on with such like with like a smaller sample size. And we were starting to do things I think you're looking at I think you're looking for two things, a successful experiment.


One is going to lead you to learn. So even if it's like this did not work whatsoever, that's that's really valuable. Right.


You are understanding like this format doesn't make sense. Or maybe you had a hunch that this is about emotional support and people aren't really into that, at least on this kind of early test, like kind of a big swing in different directions. I think the second thing you're looking for is like crazy energy. And I'm not talking like just how likely are you refer to this to a friend? Most people were eight to nine.


I'm talking like you need if you really want sort of like your efforts to scale, say your you know, you are looking at your internal employees and you're thinking about running a new thing. Maybe it's an anti-racism book club that is led by folks like if if people aren't like, you know, this is almost transformational or this is something like I, I definitely need more of. I've been yearning to have this conversation for so long or if you like, you need some sort of signal, you know, five times as many people registered for this than you thought it would be.


You're looking for that. And I think it comes in different forms, but it requires like a lot of testing can require testing and iteration to, like, get there. But when you when you see something like that, you really have a shared activity that you can kind of continue to build on because, yeah, usually there's I think the the mistake would be to be like, hey, we ran this meta. It seemed pretty good.


Like we're excited to, like, scale this up, like, let's go for it. I think I heard this story that Laura Nestler Duolingo like tested 40 events for their language circles, you know, and as far as like what's going to keep a company from doing this? Well, I think it's an expectation that they're going to figure it out quickly, figure out in the short term and not giving it space to breathe.


And it's funny, too, because that's, you know, as we know, not how businesses work in the first place. It's all about having a hypothesis. And I love that you focus on this as an experiment. You're going to have a hypothesis, you're going to experiment, you're going to try it. You're going to see the results. And either it's going to be successful and you'll have these ways of seeing that or it wasn't as successful. It wasn't like maybe it didn't build the community.


But I'm successful because you've got some really clear learnings and insights on it that now allow you to adapt your hypothesis and try something again.


Yeah, yeah. You know, one one flip on this. We are also starting to see clients who come in and saying, like, hey, man, I really like this approach to it. They're saying, hey, um, I want to build up this organization more like a community than a business. I want this organization to have some like very like I read the book and I want this organization to almost like a culture shift of looking at our customers in a different way, of being more focused on how do we build with people, build with each other, build with our customers and build for.


And so we'll do workshops with sort of a collection of change agents within organization, a large one, and be like, these are 12 people that are going to like they're going to make a ruckus and they're going to start sort of enacting a little you know, they're down to start enacting little programs. They already have a track record of doing it. And I want to like equip them with a sort of a next level of sort of language and inspiration and a framework to sort of evaluate what they do next, to maximize the possibility that they can, you know, further push our organization to be a, you know, a more collaborative community centered group across whether we're talking about are talking about the marketing or we're talking about kind of engineering.


And I find those really fun because to me, that's like building a community often gets siloed at some place. And the organization, does it live on product? Does it live under this? And I think at the end of the day, like the value of investing in a particular group of people can be and will be realized in like it'll seep into all sorts of like, you know, ways that you've tried to box it in will like inspire people to and from a retention standpoint to want people to stay home.


Yeah, it touches everything for our product feedback from a marketing, from a, you know, voice of the customer.


Like it can just really seep into all these places. So to only believe that, you know, it only lives here. And I only need like this person from this sort of side of the organization to be thinking about this I think is a is a far sort of like a, you know, a recipe to, you know, not do not make meaningful change. Yeah. I agree, and I've changed my mind on this in recent years because I used to really say, like choose one goal and really focus on it.


I still think it's true that you need to have a priority, like an order of priority and understand what the specific outcomes you're accountable to are and not have too many of those or else you'll not be successful. That said, I think community does touch pretty much every part of the business, whether or not you want it to. And and the way I've been advising companies to think about where it sits, an organization is kind of like a hub and spoke model.


And I think Duolingo uses it this way. And I think Salesforce does, too, where it's like you have a central community department and then that department intersects with other teams and you might even have people who are on the community team who also sit on another team. So there will be like on the community team and they sit on the marketing team or on the community team and they sit on the product team and they work on product and features and or they sit on the support and success team and they focus on forums and education.


But they're still part of the central community team, which is providing the overall community strategy, value, standards, metrics, all the community specific things that are required for a department like that to be successful.


Yeah, I love that. I think it gets back to that. We spoke earlier around focusing on community as a community, as a group of people, and maybe less is like what is the belonging, the sense of belonging that, you know, the sense of community. And when you think about as a group of people, it's like, great. Yeah, that great. That group of people, all of our organization is like trying to supercharge or like serve that, you know, that group of people.


So how can we believe that community can live? You know, a community department can live in a silo.


Yeah. It turns out it's all just groups of people. Yeah.


All of this is just groups of people just trying to friggin survive together and exist in the world. It's whole business thing is just made up as a way to coexist as a community like we're investing community. It's like, well, who's building all the things?


Awesome. We're going to wrap up with some rapid fire questions. One of my favorite ones is one that you kind of just answered. But what kind of articulated is what is your definition of community? True communities or simply groups of people who keep coming together over what they care about. Love it. Rapid Fire. All right, favorite book, The Martian like reignited my sort of a love for science fiction. It led me down a deep path to continue reading.


Also, a very community has a great community story behind it.


It was written. Yeah. Oh, yeah.


It wasn't. It was like a short story posted on Reddit or so.


Yeah, he he would post it on Reddit in like space Subrata. It's where there's actual like scientists and they would all give him feedback on his drafts and make sure it was like scientifically accurate and give even feedback on the stories. And so he basically like wrote it with the community. There you go. There it is.


Perfect, perfect answer.


Who is somebody that you are learning a lot from right now? You're following someone that you recommend other people follow.


Check out my friend Nate Nichols, who's running this Freelancer Cyber Summit. I think if you go to Ally Ship and Action Dotcom, you'll find their work. They're up to you. But I sent him a birthday message maybe a month ago that was just like, hey, man, sometimes I honestly, I just like I channel you. I'm like, what would they do in this situation? And it's probably a combination of, like, showing up like real also like moonwalking through life and like not being afraid of like some really hard stuff that you got to go through.


That's where that's where we grow. Love it. What's your favorite community? Well, today at camp, I mean, I brought them I brought them up earlier, I've served on the board of that organization of where or teachers, teachers over these UN conferences. But, you know, I've I've had the chance to go to maybe like four or five of these in-person pre covid. Now they're running at camps with, you know, thousands of people talking about sort of how to teach with digital and, you know, with sort of the stay at home needs of of kids.


And they're really amazing, just the feeling and the true sense of empowerment that they provide to. But they build with the folks there. It's killer at Camp Dog. Love it.


What's one like go to engagement tactic or techniques that you know, you like using a bit small discussions and breakouts is a a the short answer.


I think it's a a quick hack to turn a lot of these like speaker. One person talks to a lot of people, one about people ask one person a question like it's a way to turn that up on its head and, you know, to be able to like break people up into a group, whether that's going to be a repeating group for many months or like in an event itself, in a gathering and activity itself just to, like, help people sort of navigate to reflect on what they're learning.


Follow up, rapid fire question.


What's the one thing you think is most important to keep in mind when doing small group discussions to make them successful facilitation? Mm hmm.


And that could be that could be light, like identifying, you know, just questions ahead of time to get things started. Um, but I think to toss people in a group and say, hey, talk about like whatever, or it's like we're gonna put you in a group to go, like, reflect on what you heard. Um, I think it's lazy. I think it doesn't honor the fact that you're you're bringing people there together for a purpose and you could do some legwork to guide people to have, um.


Yeah. Really killer conversations and move from like reporting facts or observations to, you know, so why and what are you going to do about it.


Mm hmm. Well, that last question. So you're on your deathbed and tomorrow's your last day on Earth, and I hand you a piece of paper to write down the one piece of advice you have for people on building communities that you want them to remember from all of your experience and all your learnings. What what is that advice? Go build your community with people, not for people done love it. So this is great. Where can people go find you online?


The book is Get Together. Yeah, well, should they go? Yeah.


The book is Get Together. You can search on Amazon and go get together. Book dotcom. You can find out more about people and company. Our strategy company at people and company. Not a dotcom, but a company that'll get you there. You have a podcast. We have a podcast. Yep. Get together. Just search that in wherever you podcasts. We spotlight kind of interviews with ordinary people who have built extraordinary communities.


Awesome. You're on Twitter to Twitter at Kevin and Kevin HQ Y and H and then my personal website, Kiwibank Dotcom. The story behind that name is and you know, for the next podcast, for another episode or another episode. Well, thanks so much, man. Really appreciate you. You've always been someone, like I said in the start, who I've followed and have had a lot of respect for. And I appreciate your you you are someone who gets kind of that balance of operationalizing community and while keeping it real and keeping it meaningful.


And you've always just been a generous person with your time and your insights. And I mean, I think we could talk all day. I love this stuff. So appreciate you. Appreciate you taking the time and all the other work that you've done for the industry and to help other community builders. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate you all, too.


I'm and. All right. Thanks, everyone. See you next time.