Sustainable Impact as a Digital Nomad

Hey guys,

As most of you know, I’m working on the team of Wifi Tribe, a coworking/coliving project that takes people a country a month around the world. We stand out because our main mission is to build a community of like-minded people to support/inspire each other. Well, I’m now reaching out to that community for some support/inspiration. Let me explain.

I arrived in Croatia two weeks ago in order to plan our weekend trips and to connect with the local community (I’m running our location in Zadar for the month of September). This brings me to the reason for this post:

I want to help people as I travel

I want this to occur in a sustainable way.

How?

The idea I have right now is to help build out the local infrastructure of entrepreneurs. These people can usually be found in and around the local coworking space (if there is one in the city). Let’s assume there is a coworking space that is open to partner. We ask them what the local people want/need. Here’s the formula I’ve come up with so far:

1. We have a skill as a digital nomad that the local community of entrepreneurs would like to learn more about.

2. Can we set up a workshop to share our skills with the community (at no charge to them) in exchange for free/discounted access to the space while we’re there?

3. Even if we find a need and can offer help, we need to ask: what is the most culturally acceptable way to meet this need in the community?

I’ve been having such a fun/educational time here in Zadar helping organize an open house at the coworking space. We want to show the community what coworking is, offer people a chance to tour the space, and show them how the coworking space will be a support/resource for them if they want to express/pursue their entrepreneurial ideas. Me, coming from the states, was shooting off ideas about potlucks, alcohol sponsors, yada yada yada… and was received with blank stares. They don’t do potlucks here and said if they proposed one, no one would show. The alcohol sponsorship isn’t unheard of, but it still needed questions answered on the best way to propose sponsorship verse what’s culturally normal here. I loved learning how they do things here and keep telling them, “This is your community you’re building. Just tell me the best way I can help build it.” This sense of community at a local coworking space is especially needed in a country that, for so long, was lead by socialism. It’s been so humbling for me to have a small part in helping craft a safe space for ones to conjure/express/pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

I meet so many people as I travel who are smart/talented, but need support/tiny bit of knowledge-based resources to get started. If we as humans have a tool that we can share with another human (without injury to either party), I believe we should share that tool. Maybe I know something about coworking/marketing/business development that I can share. Why would I not share this? The natural side-effect this partnership is actual connection with the local community, a warm feeling in your stomach and maybe a safe space to work from with good wifi. Instead of a business transaction of “here’s my money,” I want to create safe spaces for people to share knowledge-based tools, make friends and actually make an impact.

What’s after Croatia?

I’ve had conversations recently with founders of digital nomad service companies; asking them if they would like to partner in setting up sustainable programs for DNs to partner with the local community in the way described above. The answer I received was disappointing: the basic write-off of: “People should just spend money in local business with less resources; that’s the fastest way to economic growth.”

Ok…that helps temporarily. That helps inflate the tourist economy for the season. That encourages a mentality of ‘how much money can I get out of them while they’re here.’

That helps turn us DNs into faces that look like giant dollar signs. That helps disconnect us with the local community one extra level.

I understand the frustration we all have about the hypocrisy that happens in most NGOs and how we probably are giving our money to some CEO. Or that the project actually hurts the community more than it helps it. These are valid frustrations and they piss me off too. But my answer isn’t to give up or say, “Ok, can’t do anything here, bye.” I’m suggesting another alternative. I’m not saying I have the perfect solution; I don’t think a perfect one exists. But I’m going to try to do something to help. I’m going to get into the arena and fight this battle; and I’m asking for people to step in and fight alongside me.

If this project is successful in Croatia, why can’t we replicate this in other places? Do you have any suggestions/support/resources you can share with me?