Building Meaningful Community

A few days a week I wake up before the sun, power down some coffee, and head to a heated studio to practice yoga.  I’m greeted by cheerful instructors who ask me about my kids or my weekend and I head in to sweat on my mat.  I could 100% practice yoga at home and never have to scrape the snow off my car in the dark or hunt for parking downtown, but I’m at there for something more than yoga. I’m there for the community. 

Even before the isolation of COVID hit us, we were surrounded by shallow connections.  People you have never met “friending” you or connecting on LinkedIn. Superficial attempts to bond without understanding or empathy. And studies are now saying that this actually makes us feel lonelier. In a recent Psychology Today article by Anthony Silard Ph. D, he states, 

“By putting you in contact with the many who matter little to you (e.g., former classmates you didn’t even speak with in real-time back then, friends of friends who are not friends for a reason), social media diminishes your ability to connect in real-time with the few who matter a lot.” 

ProKanban came to life in the middle of this pandemic which meant that building a meaningful community was going to take more than Slack or LinkedIn.  We set out to have some fun through efforts like virtual face-to-face events, steward office hours, and train-the-trainer workshops, but personal connections emerged in less strucured ways too- sharing photos of new babies, meeting grunty pugs over zoom, sharing engagement photos, or asking for new ways to hack Jira data. The connections were built outside the objective and we found each other inspite of it. 

Community isn’t built with requirements, regulation, or prescription- its built in the compassion that happens without force. It’s built with empathy.  It’s built with humilty. It’s built with intentionality.  Because we know that we can’t be part of a community without putting ourselves fully into it. Sharing our pain. Sharing our joy. Sharing our raw selves. 

We knew this had to be front and center in building ProKanban to be the safe space for anyone one to teach, to share, to learn. A few months ago I shared my thoughts on what Professionalism means in ProKanban. This meant creating space for possibility. Possibility of what we can do, what we can build and who we can come together to solve complex problems.

But here is what is different. Why we want to be different.  This isn’t about a hierarchy, authority,  or a chain of command.  Community cannot be built on fear or patriarchy.  It can only be built when we stop and create the opportunity for everyone to hold space, to find purpose, and to fully be a part of something that gives meaning back to them. It has to reciprocal in a way that every one is excited to be here because they are equally excited about what they gain. 

My hope is that 2022 brings new meaning to this community that we have hobbled together with zoom and slack and every attempt to connect to each other, because I know that when we get to shake hands, hug, and finally connect- we will be stronger than ever.