Time tends to stop when braindates begin.

Courageous Connections at the Heart of C2

This year was record-breaking for Braindate at C2 Montréal. Here are just a few of the stories that stopped us in our tracks.

Sophie Silkes
Jun 11 · 5 min read

by Smriti Bansal & Sophie Silkes

C2 Montreal is among the most inspiring conferences in the world.

What makes it so special is something beyond the all-star headliners and mind-bending activities (we do love the gravity-defying labs and workshops as much as the next person). It’s the people who dare to engage with this boundary-pushing content that make C2 unique.

Each year C2 participants flock to Montreal, prepared to be pushed, pulled, and to jump into challenging new spaces. That dare-to-be-vulnerable, hope-to-grow spirit is at the heart of the best Braindate experiences—that’s why, we believe, C2 participants are always so game for the sometimes mysterious challenge of braindates.

Here are just a few stories of connection that stayed with us since the last of the crowds trickled away this May.


Shared joy is at the root of human connection.

Lee Kim. Credit: Youssef Shoufan

Most people who went on a braindate with Lee Kim described her as a “pure joy.” And with braindate topics like, How might we make play as an essential part of our day to create meaningful & purposeful life, we’re not surprised.

Nearly every day for the past two years, Lee has woven a crown with colorful pipe cleaners. It’s a ritual she shares with her daughter, to inject a sense of play and creativity into her daily life.

She brought this practice to the C2 Braindate Lounge, where she would patiently knit an elaborate crown for each person who set up a braindate with her.

Some pipe cleaners and a grin offer important perspective in the Braindate Lounge, amidst the bustle of C2.

Lee reminded her braindates that childlike wonder can inspire a willingness to open yourself to unexpected shared joy. And yes, the crowns worked their magic: there wasn’t a single person who left Lee without a huge smile, ourselves included.

Beyond our silos, there are kindred spirits.

Rackeb Tesfaye. Credit: Thi Thuy Ho

Rackeb hosted her first group braindate on Redefining success: How can we measure meaningful participatory engagement outcomes?

Rackeb is a neuroscience PhD student, and founder of Broad Science. Her particular braindate topic drew people from across industries: from the arts and IT, to corporate marketing. All participants, it turns out, were ruminating on the same question, just based on totally different life experiences.

“There are others out there who are working on similar questions,” she reflected, “which at first, you may not think apply to you specifically. But once you start digging deeper, you’ll see that you’re actually not alone.”

The future of knowledge-sharing is accessible to all.

David Demers (on the right). Credit: Youssef Shoufan

Here’s an obvious statement: it’s hard to connect with people at events—in a traditional networking sense—when you struggle with your vision. Many of us don’t often think about this, but for David Demers, this is a constant challenge.

David lost his eyesight just before his 30th birthday, when his career as a commercial photographer was starting to take off. While this unexpected turn of events might have slowed him down at first, it certainly didn’t stop him.

He decided to go back to university to study public and community affairs and graduated at the top of his class. He is now the executive director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Foundation, which delivers “innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion.”

“My braindate at C2 was spontaneous,” David began. “The Learning Concierges had organized a braindate with another blind person, and that’s how this ended up happening.”

Group braindates at C2 were at a record high this year, with 300 over the course of the three-day event.

The Braindate Learning Concierges (who also act as spontaneous matchmakers to facilitate conversations between people who may have something profound to share) had been assisting another participant, Nicolas, to organize his braindates. They asked to introduce him to David for a braindate. Nicolas, who also happens to also be visually impaired, agreed.

“He [Nicolas Karasiewicz] is from France, and we were able to talk about what is going on in our respective countries, for blind people,” David explained. “We brainstormed about how we can collaborate.”

“Braindate could have a significant impact for someone like me—someone who is visually impaired—because it helps me to connect with people even if I don’t see them.”

“This allows me to have a space to meet with people,” he continued, “to figure out who is around, [and to] have people come to my braindates. It brings networking to me, instead of me going to the networking.”

Stories like these shape e180’s growth as a team, and a company—and will influence how we continue to develop the Braindate experience.

They also represent just a few of the tales behind the record-breaking Braindate stats at C2 2019 this year:

  • 5000+ Braindate connections, including almost 1000 connections facilitated live onsite by the Learning Concierges
  • 1761 different braindate topics
  • 313 group braindates

Thanks to the C2 community for your passion, your gutsy enthusiasm, and your hunger for braindates. We hope to see you (way) before C2 2020!


Did you meet any of these people, or experience a C2 braindate that you’d like to share? Please leave it in a comment for us below, so that we can tell the world.

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Sophie Silkes

Written by

Building a global collaborative learning movement with @e180, creators of Braindate. Past @jwmcconnell Social Innovation Fellow & @mcgillurbanlab grad.

We Seek

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Learn Constantly. Become Future-Proof.