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Via https://www.facebook.com/pg/teawithstrangers/photos/

Last summer I was sitting with Ankit Shah in a cafe in San Francisco. A while into our conversation a stranger, sharing a table with us, reached over and asked: “Are you the Ankit from Tea With Strangers? I met my two best friends there. I love it”.

This serendipitous moment beautifully captures the essence of Ankit’s work. He founded an organization called Tea With Strangers, which brings people together over tea and helps them have honest, meaningful conversations. The organization hopes to fertilize the soil for deep relationships and ultimately inspire a deeper and more rooted faith in humanity.


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Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Our work with the Community Canvas has allowed me to see the state of “community building” from a bird’s eye view. Through the Canvas and the Facebook group we started I met community builders from Australia, Singapore, China, India, the Middle East, allover Europe, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Canada and unexpected places across the US. On this journey I learned two simple things:

1) There are incredibly talented community builders allover the world. There are so many people who love bringing people together and who are good at helping them build trust and belonging. As far as I can…


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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Over the last two weeks I participated in several community retreats. At all of these gatherings the discussion circles with the full group took longer than they had been planned for and at the end of it people were still hungry to continue talking. People had a lot they wanted to say.

At first I felt exhausted by the people who would dominate the collective space, by speaking often and in long, winding monologues. It reminded me of the underlying, unspoken power dynamics, because the people who speak a lot tend to be men, often white men.

But then I…


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Via Ontaria Tech University https://news.uoit.ca/archives/2018/03/engineerings-sacred-iron-ring-ceremony-a-symbolic-rite-of-passage.php

A few weeks ago I was part of an inspired dinner conversation where one of the guests told us that many Canadian engineers — like himself — wear an iron ring as a proud marker of their profession and reminder of their work’s ethics.

I had never heard of that. As I was digging more into this story, I realized that this is an incredibly powerful community ritual, with a rich history and the flavor of a long gone era.

Here is what I learned (all sources via the Calling of an Engineer and Wikipedia)

  • It originated in 1922 as…


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Photo by Puk Patrick on Unsplash

A few weeks back I saw Ants Cabraal from Enspiral present at AIME 2019 in Melbourne. He gave a fabulous talk about how community can transform the ways we work together. One of his opening slides showed a big bonfire with people sitting around it and he reminded us that community and community building is as old as humanity. Ever since we learned about the power of the fire, we have been sitting around it, telling stories, building relationships, making sense of the world around us. …


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Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash

I recently spoke with a UN agency who is building a global community of practitioners. In our conversations I was reminded of a particular image of “community” that I come across often in my client work:

  • Community = an annual gathering
  • Community = a digital social network
  • And often the intersection of the two: Community = an annual gathering and a social network

This perspective then drives resource allocation conversations: if we want to improve the community, we should create a better gathering or increase the features of our social network.

I find this perspective limiting. I think nurturing a…


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Notes from our workshop in February 2019 in NYC

These insights come from user interviews in the last few months, the Canvas 2.0 survey and a 3 day workshop the team held in NYC in February 2019. We’d LOVE to hear any feedback or reflections you have, you can leave a comment below or email us at team@community-canvas.org. This post was collectively put together by our project team: Daniel Brooks, Chris Chavez, Erin Dixon, Michel Bachman, Sascha Mombartz, Sita Magnusson and myself.

Big picture reflections

  • The current version of the Canvas feels overwhelming and intimidating, partially due to the number of themes and a lack of guidance on how to use it…


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Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

As we are working on the next iteration of the Community Canvas, an existential question keeps surfacing: can communities even be planned? My feeling is yes and no 🙂

No, communities can not be planned

  • A community is a living being, not a machine that can be drawn up on a piece of paper and then be put together according to the plan. When we use the word “community”, really what we mean is the collective set of relationships and beliefs among a group of people that exists over an extended period of time. …


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Photo from our Canvas 2.0 team workshop in NYC in February 2019

We have been working on the next version of the Community Canvas for the last couple of months and this post is a summary of the clarity we see on where we are headed. We’d LOVE to hear any feedback or reflections you have, you can leave a comment below or email us at team@community-canvas.org. This post was collectively put together by our project team: Daniel Brooks, Chris Chavez, Michel Bachman, Sascha Mombartz, Sita Magnusson and myself.

Project intention

Here is what we are sensing for version 2.0 of the Community Canvas:

  • We believe we live in a disconnected world where communities…


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Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

One of the biggest question I’m holding with nurturing thriving communities is simple: what are the core motivations for people to show up in communities? What creates most value in community?

I sense that there are two basic reasons which energize people to engage: being together and doing together. And at the intersection of these two is learning together. These are far from being mutually exclusive and there is a lot of overlap, yet I sense that their core intentions are different.

Examples of being together: We come together to build relationships. We come for friendship, and to feel a…

Fabian Pfortmüller

Grüezi, Swiss community builder in NYC, author of @CommunityCanvas, co-founder Together Institute, fabian@together.is www.together.is

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