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Places & Spaces: To where (and to whom) will you belong after the pandemic is over?

Updated: May 11

First, some framing- a video from Sophia:









And now for the blog...


Ten years ago, well before anyone was even thinking about a global pandemic, my mom’s friends Dianne and Vaciliki started a business. It was called The Third Door. The concept was this: the first door is the door to your home. The second door is the door to your workplace (and in 2010 most people had physical doors to their workplace). And the third door...well, that door led to your chosen community. To a place where you would go to just hang. Where you gathered with friends to work out, to eat, to conversate, even to do charitable work together. (Proceeds from The Third Door went to my mom’s non-profit she started called WANDA). It had the exclusive feel of a member’s only club, paired with the inclusive feeling of “we serve the greater community and anyone who walks through those doors belongs”. It was a brilliant concept. Well ahead of its time. And when I think about it now, it had every element of what the world is so desperately trying to reimagine and recreate in this global pandemic era: community, connection, inclusivity, belonging, and joy...except...that it was in a physical space. You literally walked through The Third Door’s front door (often after you walked out of the door to your work and often before you walked back through the door to your home) to be in this space.



Ten years later, when all we seem to talk about is how this pandemic has changed the world, I started a business. It is called OPM Collective. It’s a very similar concept. And when I think about it now, I’m not surprised I borrowed from my mom’s friends' idea. I’ve always looked up to my mom and her friends. They just seem to get what is important and they always have fun. OPM Collective is the third door. A virtual door - because we meet over an online platform - into a chosen community - because each member belongs to a Collective of 4-6 other people who become their social and emotional support group.


This concept of a “third door” has always been important. Religion has primarily fulfilled our need for the third door. Indigenous peoples would often meet in spiritual or healing circles on a particular piece of land that was thought to be scared. Modernized peoples would often walk through the doors of a church or a synagogue or a mosque to be met with other people who can help and support them along their journeys. But there are other non-religious examples too. Think about the ancient Greeks who would meet in agoras to discuss philosophy with their friends. Or the Japanese concept of moai- a group of 4 non-blood-related others you are assigned to at birth and who, over the course of your life, you rely on for support. Or the Bolivian concept of pasanaku- a group of friends who all put an agreed amount of money into a pot and each time they meet, a different member is gifted all the money to use toward something they need.


Cultures across time and geography have valued the concept of a third door. Both literally - a physical space outside the home or office- and figuratively- a space for a group of friends outside of your family or work, a group to which you belong and to which you give and receive social and emotional support.


The fact is humans are hardwired for belonging. But I would argue that modern humans, especially humans who have survived/are surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, have a unique need and opportunity to blur the boundaries that exist between each of these doors. And no, I don’t think blurred lines are such a bad thing.


Sometimes your friends are your family. I know people who never felt like they belonged in their family or who were disowned by their family because of their sexuality or their choice in partner. They found a new family in a group of friends who loved them for these very reasons. And sometimes your family and your friends are found in your office. I know people who started small companies and who spent every waking moment with the team of people they hired to run the company they built. They shared all the big moments and all the hard moments with one another and they wouldn’t have it any other way. And sometimes, like now, we have to work from home, with our families in the background and our colleagues over the screen and there’s only just one door to walk through and that’s the door between our bedrooms and our bathrooms.



So I realized something else about OPM Collective...it is an updated third door concept. That isn’t about family or work in the traditional sense and that doesn’t take place in the physical home or office. But that has adapted to our current times and that blends the concept behind each of these doors in service of one purpose: belonging. Members step through the virtual door to their OPM Collective- a small group of others. And those others can be your workmates (I am very excited to pilot a Collective of people all on the same work team), or your family (stay tuned, I will be experimenting with running a Collective with family members), or your best friends aka your chosen family (also stay tuned, I will be experimenting with running a Collective with a best friends group), or strangers who become friends (I already piloted this one and it has exceeded my expectations in terms of how well strangers from different places in the world are able to connect with one another).


In any case, no matter the people or the place or the space, it’s the feeling, the feeling of belonging that matters. That feeling was born alongside the earliest settlements on Earth. And while modern culture can tend to ignore it or stifle it, the need to belong most certainly hasn’t gone away, nor will it. As our world reshapes and reconfigures, we will continue to have a very deep need to belong and we must build and maintain the right places and spaces and people to and with whom we can belong.







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