In January 2018, REALITY NYC Hub Leaders organized REALITY Check. Dan MacCombie spearheaded the event. He reflects on his experiences and lessons learned. Check on his thoughts in writing and a video of the day.
As Reality alumni, when we think back on our experiences in Israel, a few memories come up for everyone: the community we created, the connections we made and the ideas we shared. We also remember the food, the sights and the music. The emotional space that we all held for each other throughout the week.
As we came back, we all carried those memories, learnings,and connections with us as we went back into our homes. We integrated the experience into our daily lives, and kept finding ways to connect. There are so many of us who went on different journeys and who shared this unique experience. By being grouped together under different interests and identities, this created a special opportunity: work to build a REALITY alumni community in our home city to come together and share all we are creating and experiencing in our lives.
For our 2018 inaugural event for the NYC hub, we used this opportunity to envision something special - something that would bring us together in a new way. We created a one day gathering called REALITY Check. We had a mix of small-scale learning and connecting content, larger group sessions, movement, music, food, interactive VR displays and plenty of space to learn from each other and share stories, memories and ideas.
So many of us walked away from the day wowed by what we had experienced together. Here's a video highlighting our day together. As I reflect on what we brought together and how we pulled it off, a few key lessons resonate:
1. Start from the why and with what’s most important. For us, it was for people to have fun, connect more deeply across trips, deepen the community connection in NYC and learn from each other’s knowledge and experience. Knowing that guided all our decisions – from how to include people early in the co-creation, to what content was right for the experience, to how we wanted the space to look and be experienced. Having a vision for how we wanted people to feel kept us excited about what the experience could be for everyone.
2. Bring together a team that’s excited about whatever they’re signing up for and creating something together. We had so many people who stepped up in all sorts of ways. We had a few key stewards really show up in strength (NYC animators Liz Friedland and Vishal Sapra and Caleb Spaulding bringing the content together, especially). We set up clear roles and opportunities for them. When they weren’t clear or exciting, we heard that and responded quickly. We made sure to find ways for everyone who wanted to be involved and had the bandwidth to do so. And, finally, we really gave people a space to shine by bringing their gifts into the program in so many ways.
3. Get the big details together early. We had an amazing partner with the Assemblage, a wellness- and mindfulness-focused space in Manhattan. Not only were they incredibly generous with their support, they had a remarkable team and beautiful space. When a few of us showed up early on the morning of, we realized that everything that needed to be done had mostly been done. So many of our volunteers ran with their roles because we’d taken the time to sit down and clarify how they were excited to contribute. That meant that whole areas were just taken. care of in advance.
On the flip side, we were waiting on a cascade of moving parts to be able to issue tickets, and ended up being a bit tight on the timing. It all worked out great, but it will serve as a reminder for how to make this flow more easily next time.
4. Make intentional space for people to connect authentically. We had breaks and pauses throughout the day, and meals where people could sit and share space. Having these kind of openings helped people really slow down and build our container together – and for many people, ended up being one of the most important parts of the day.
5. Think about all the senses. We brought together so many different kinds of content and experiences, so that people really would be prompted to learn from different disciplines and backgrounds. It was a lot to manage at times, but it really took people into new spaces and mindsets. And, with that in mind:
6. Don’t be afraid to get a little uncomfortable. We started the day off with a movement exercise that got people out of their heads and into their bodies. We had a small men’s circle. We had a VR exhibit about memories of the Holocaust that was deep and emotionally impactful. It kept everyone engaged, and also made the whole day just a lot more meaningful.
7. Be willing to change and respond quickly. We saw that rooms needed to be moved, schedules got behind and people had to go at different times. We just rolled with it. These and other things, at the end of the day, are just things. Being open, and knowing how to have the rest of the community (over 100 people) on board with that helped make the day feel light and fun.
REALITY Check was a hit, and we’re all thrilled by how it turned out. We’re all grateful for all the people who created it with us, especially the people who volunteered their time and knowledge. It brought the community closer together, in ways that we are still reflecting off of for the future. And, assuming we do this next year, we have something to build upon even more with our NYC Hub actions in 2018.
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.