Our social fabric is a most valuable asset, the invisible woven net in which we live, exert influence, find resources and collaborators, solve problems and make up what comes next. I pay attention to people who foster ways of strengthening that fabric and want to share here a few recent experiences with people who are doing just that.
On Saturday April 14th, I gathered with about 40 other folks in my neighborhood, the Laurel district in east Oakland, CA to participate in the Laurel to Redwoods Walk led by Oakland Urban Paths. OUP host Paul Rosenbloom and special guest, local historian Dennis Evanosky, led us on a meandering journey through our streets, introducing us to off-the-beaten-path public pathways that some of us knew nothing about, including passages between private property lines, pedestrian bridges and trails. OUP’s mission is to raise awareness of these pathways to increase public usage and enjoyment of them and to get support for signage and maintenance that keep them accessible. Dennis continually fed our interest with “here on this very spot” tales of Oakland’s early development by native peoples, Spanish settlers, gold miners seeking real estate, greedy lawyers, and more!
I enjoyed the exercise, the adventure and the history. But what thrilled me most was the way connections formed during this hike. I noticed this in several ways. A few times, as our serpentine group stretched along sidewalks, we inspired curiosity and connection. People came out on their porches calling out “Who are you?” and we replied “Come with us for a hike!” In an improvisational moment, one man even ran inside to get his hat and joined us. Gerald, owner of Scheberies Used Cars, paused to talk with the group as we followed the path next to his chain link fence. His business has been there since before 580 was built! As we walkers warmed up to each other, making introductions and falling into stride with different companions, our conversations deepened. I participated in problem-solving discussions about how to slow traffic on the 35th Avenue hill and how to get trails and bridges in the redwoods fixed after the winter’s rains. I’m sure there were many other productive threads that I never witnessed. It was heartening to sense how this random group of people on a hike was so naturally creative and willing to serve this place we love living in. I want to celebrate Paul and Oakland Urban Paths who so obviously make space for connecting people to the land, to history, to each other and to our future.
A week later on April 21st I attended the business launch party for BASE Landscape Architecture, owned by my fun and talented clients, Patricia Algara and Andreas Stavropoulos. Even after years of being a networker, I find it challenging to walk into a room packed with people I don’t know. I explored their office digs, got a glass of wine, and discovered the Zome in their shared workspace where I settled in. (Patricia and Rob Bell construct these beautiful, whimsical wood structures that are a regular feature in Burning Man’s desert landscape.) Benches with pillows lined the inside making an inviting space for quietly taking in the visual and energetic aesthetic and/or connecting with the people next to me. There just is something about sitting in a circular space that facilitates ease of connection. I leaned on the cushions to take in the ceiling, was entertained by two lively musicians, and had an engaging conversation about economics, organizational behavior and the self-organizing system we call the Internet. I also heard a story about how the Zomes at Burning Man “create a space in the middle of the desert and everyone inside is like at a cocktail party.” Andreas, Patricia and Rob understand how to make space for connections through building the kinds of environments we humans need to relax and engage.
As a final thought…
I notice that making the space for connections means slowing down our pace, at least a bit. If you want more and better relationships, teamwork, and community in your life, work, and neighborhood, take the time to make space for connections.
Happy Earth Day! NikaNika Newcomb Quirk, MBA PhD facilitating the emergence of systems savvy, resilient, artful, and collaborative leadership NikaQuirk@mac.com +1 510-381-5350 facebook: nika quirk linked in: nika quirk