What is BREAD?
It is a question I get a lot, but one that I struggle to answer. It is hard to explain what BREAD is because it is an experience. BREAD stands for Boston’s Racial and Economic Activated Dialogue. But, what BREAD really stands for is love. The love I’m talking about builds and transforms communities. We often have a misconception when we hear the word love, as it connoted with romance and desire. What is love? If we know what it is and what allows love to flourish we can then cultivate more of it.
Maybe that is what makes BREAD feel like a sacred space, at least to me. We are intentional about nurturing and creating conditions for love. Researcher, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, would define love as that micro-moment of connection between people. Love is our most powerful positive emotion.
At BREAD we believe that it is possible to express our strengths and to share these strengths in a mutually beneficial way to help each of us prosper and grow, but only if we create space to collectively nurture our human connections.
One of the ways in which we facilitate these micro-moments of connection within our community is through our signature Startup Classroom series.
Traditionally, Startup Classroom is a quarterly speaker series where we invite nationally known entrepreneurs of color to speak about their area of expertise and answer audience questions.Yet, it is so much more than that. Through this series, we “curate a positive and virtuous platform, where all participants leave feeling fulfilled and valued.” There is great importance to curating positive spaces for others.
There is emerging and expanding research led by Fredrickson and other psychologists on the role of positive emotions in our life. In addition to love other positive emotions include interest, hope, pride, gratitude, amusement, inspiration, awe, serenity, and joy. Fredrickson’s research on positive emotions and her “broaden-and-build theory” has greatly influenced the emphasis that we place on making sure that BREAD is a place where everyone in attendance, from speakers to attendees to staff, leave feeling inspired, proud and hopeful.
Startup Classroom is not about positive affirmations or positive thinking. This is truly about creating a space and the conditions for people to experience positive emotions. This is critical for two reasons. One, in our communities such as Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, there is the perception that not only are these communities in need of services, but that there is something inherently wrong with them that needs to be fixed. BREAD was co-founded by a group of community organizers, that knew that this was belief was a false one. As BREAD was in its foundational stages, we were driven by what was positive about our community — the connections, the positive emotions and the positive experiences within it. We wanted to create a space that amplified and stewarded what we knew to be true, all that goodness that we see and feel every day, and was a counter narrative to the typical rhetoric. Second, we learned that there was actually research that supported our gut inclination. Fredrickson’s research shows that positive emotions create an upward spiral that ultimately lead to transformation. That is why at BREAD we are less concerned with the transaction of knowledge that entrepreneurs need for their businesses (i.e. how do I grow my social media following?) and more focused on creating conditions for positive emotions to flourish that allow for a transformative experience.
One way we create conditions for positive emotions is by having a DJ at our events that plays music our audience likes. When people walk into the space after being at work all day the music helps them get excited. Another way we do this, is by having members of our team greet attendees at the door and help them create a name tag. We also have food at our events and allow attendees the opportunity to connect with one another. We create time for participants to engage with what else is happening in the space, such as a watching a live illustration being created by a local artist or talking with a neighborhood bookstore that is selling non-fiction books recommended by prior BREAD guests. As folks settle in they are welcomed by the BREAD team and are introduced to the featured speaker as they make an entrance to their song of choice. The energy is lively and fun.
If you have attended a BREAD event you know that there is LOTS of significant and important knowledge being exchanged, often information that they don’t tell you in the classroom or textbooks. The thing is that is the outcome when you build a space like BREAD. When you focus and prioritize human connections you magnify the effect of what is possible. Here’s what the science tells us about positive emotions. When you experience positive emotions which last only for a few seconds, maybe minutes, your awareness broadens, your perspective expands. As a BREAD attendee, maybe you walked into the space looking for a solution, and you participate in a dialogue with both the speakers and the attendees. There is a mutual exchange of resources. In a more transactional forum, you would take a seat in the audience and a speaker would be speaking at you, it would be a one-way exchange of information. You could probably ask as a question, but what was the expectation of the initial arrangement? It is often that the speaker has all the information and you are the recipient of that. I challenge you the next time you attend a panel or a speaker series to take an inventory of all the positive emotions you are feeling from the time you enter that space to the time you leave.
According to Fredrickson those positive emotions are key to broadening and increasing the breadth of our field of view because a positive state actually changes the way our brain works. That new perspective allows us to build, to reach out to others, to ask for help, to build new skills, knowledge and ways of being in the world. When we experience positive emotions they break us out of our cocoon of self-absorption, moving us from “me” and focusing more on “we”. Positive emotions also make us better at taking on another’s perspective leading to more oneness and more connections. As an entrepreneur this is significant. So often entrepreneurship can be isolating, especially if you think that you are in it alone.
Thank you to our partners and sponsors who made this event possible!