Get Together

Building real bonds amongst diverse groups of strangers 💖 Sophie Mona Pagès, LVRSNFRNDS

Episode Summary

An interview hosted by Marjorie Anderson and Kevin Huynh with Sophie Mona Pagès, the founder of LVRSNFRNDS, a community platform where strangers come to know each other through live conversations on everything modern relationships. We talked with Sophie about how to start such conversations—finding strangers and guiding their early connections—and transferring those connections online.

Episode Notes

“Society is losing something when we don’t share our weirdness with one another. You're losing something when you have someone at your table and they don't share what makes them different. One of the purposes I have in life is to create spaces where people will share what is interesting about them, and why they are different.” - Sophie Mona Pagès

As a Moroccan immigrant growing up in France, Sophie Mona Pagès grew up feeling a bit “weird” in her complex identity. She craved a space infused with diversity, inclusion, intimacy, modernity, and beauty. 

Instead of waiting for such a space to appear, she created LVRSNFRNDS herself. The 20 attendees at the first event in East London were people Sophie found on dating apps who she “would be happy to spend an evening with.” She asked them to fill out a form if they wanted to attend, spend 15 minutes with her on a call, and gathered fun facts about each attendee to spark conversations. The group was diverse across identities and ages, and meaningful relationships were sparked. The night was a success. 

Today LVRSNFRNDS gathers people around the world, to fight loneliness and enable meaningful connections of all kinds. Hand-selected members have access to events where they’re asked to contribute their voice to conversations on intimacy and relationships.

In March 2020, the community traded bars for virtual rooms. We’ll talk with Sophie about developing a playbook that captures shared values, facilitating online conversations, and why this work matters to her.

Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:

👋🏻Say hi to Sophie Mona Pagès and learn more about LVRSNFRNDS.

✨Thank you to Marjorie, “Get Together” correspondent,  for bringing us this story.

📄See the full transcript

This podcast was created by the team at People & Company. 

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Episode Transcription

Note: This transcript is automatically generated and there may be some errors. Timestamps may vary slightly based on episode announcement & commercial placement.

 

Kevin (00:00):

Welcome to Get Together. This is our show about ordinary people building extraordinary communities. I'm your host today? Kevin [inaudible]. I'm a partner at the Boeing company and co author of get together how to build a community with your people.

 

Marjorie (00:19):

I'm Marjorie Anderson, get together correspondent, founder of community by association and product manager for community at project management Institute,

 

Kevin (00:29):

Each episode we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How do they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, thousands, more members today we're talking to Sophie Mona, founder of lovers and friends, a supportive community that enables authentic conversations about relationships and intimacy. Marjorie. What is one thing you learned from our conversation today with Sophie?

 

Marjorie (00:55):

What I really enjoyed about Sophie's interview is how much she stressed the importance of your community. Having shared values, entering a space where you know that the people who are there value the same things that you do, whether that be authenticity open-mindedness, et cetera, really sets the stage for how comfortable community members feel contributing and participating in that space failure to ensure that everyone is there for the same reasons can cause communities to fall apart. And she's been incredibly intentional about ensuring that doesn't happen, which is phenomenal.

 

Kevin (01:32):

Thank you for sharing. I agree like her, her level of intention was something that I definitely respected as we listened to her during the conversation. And afterwards, for sure read, shall we get into it? Let's do it. Woo.

 

Marjorie (01:45):

Thank you so much for joining us today, Sophie. It is such a joy to have you on the podcast today. I'm so happy that you're able to join us and talk a little bit about your community.

 

Sophie (01:54):

Thank you so much, Marjorie. Thank you giving for having me great pleasure for me too.

 

Marjorie (01:58):

So lovers and friends, let's talk about that. It's a, it's a unique community. And for those who aren't aware of it, tell us a little bit more about its purpose and why it was important to you to start this community.

 

Sophie (02:10):

It's a community whose purpose is for people to lead fulfilling relationships and does being saved. Something that we do that is super important as lovers and friends is that we, we want to offer a space that is safe for every of our members to be their authentic self. Because we believe that we knew something necessary. She wants to connect in a meaningful way, was one another. And it's something that's super important to me because I have quite a complex identity. And I have been growing up feeling a bit I would say weird and I've always felt like I needed to find my people and find who's my people. And in a way, I guess that's something that I decided to create with LVRSNFRNDS.

 

Marjorie (03:03):

Awesome. So tell us a little bit about about the history of LVRSNFRNDS You know, when we were talking, you mentioned that it started out as a face to face event and you know, it was a mixer that you held tell us what that first meeting was like, and you know, who did you invite and why?

 

Sophie (03:23):

Interestingly, when I started LVRSNFRNDS what I had in mind was to connect people that were into alternative relationship styles because I am myself and I've found it's a very difficult to find people like me within dislikes specific interests because the outlets that exists when it comes to this, for me feels too sex focus. I wanted something that was more about connecting with one another having conversations. So I had this idea of doing a social mixer because I wanted people to feel like they're going to a friend's party where, so what I would tell people at the beginning, actually my pitch, I would say, imagine you're my friends and I, if I invite you to have a drinks in a bar with other friends of mine. So that's, that was really the basis of what I did to make people feel comfortable and he'll live with the meeting people they could trust with people that were here at the first social mixer.

 

Sophie (04:26):

So they were 20. And I remember what I did was I would just go on dating apps, find people that I would be actually happy to spend an evening with. And and at the time I had for an online form that people had to fill in because it was super important for me to gather those guests around shared values and also the same intense I would ask them to fill in the form. And based on that, I had a list of of guests and to validate their attendance, really, I would I spent like a 15 minutes video call with each of them and and that's how we started. So that's how I had those 20 people, those 20 people there. I think looking back now, they're quite representative of my group of friends, meaning that they were like a group of quite diverse people when it comes to gender identity, sexual orientation, race, even age.

 

Sophie (05:32):

I think we had people from like, I think maybe 25 to 50 or something like that. And yeah, it was, it was really a great night. People, Kiki, I wasn't really scared a few hours before because I worked a lot to get this list of people. And then I don't know, the afternoon observance I realized that could maybe be a challenge to get them talk to one another. So I did is that on the form that they had to fill in the shared some fun facts about themselves and they had the idea of writing those fun facts on cars. And so when they arrived, I would give each of them a card about someone else. And I asked them to find the person behind the card and that proved to be quite efficient, to get them to one another.

 

Marjorie (06:18):

That's awesome. You know, I was thinking about that as you were talking about who it was that showed up for this event, and you you're saying that it was, you know, between 25 and 50, and I was wondering how, how you, how you got people to feel like they were welcome in this space with such a diverse group of folks who showed up at this gathering. And then sometimes that can be a challenging community. So I'm wondering how you tackle that, you know, outside of the ice breaker, you know, how did you, how did you help these folks feel welcome when they first started when you had your first mixer?

 

Sophie (06:51):

I think what helps was also the fact that it was a tiny group. So 21st or 20 people is not, it's not crazy. You don't feel like you're at the trade show. Also something that is super important is the venue. So it wasn't a tiny bar in East London and we had a space dedicated to us. So I think the way it would happen, I was here to welcome each and every one of them, I would show them around, but like, no, it's not a, VESA it wasn't very straightforward. So it's like, basically we are here and I would tell them, feel free to speak to anyone. You sit you on to speak to you. You're safe. These are people who are here like you. And I would give them this phone fact cards, which was, you know, we had like quite a bunch of interesting fun facts, which was already putting a smile on everybody arriving.

 

Sophie (07:45):

And also I would tell them if she needs anything, you can always come back to Sydney. I think I'll be quite on my own during the Evan because I'm hosting. So any moment he used to come back to me, I'll be happy that you joined and we can have a chat, et cetera. So yeah, in a way it felt like being it's all about hospitality and it's something that I, that I, I think he's like runs in my family. I I'm half Moroccan have French in like in Morocco. We really have the sense of like making people feel welcome, making them feel people at home. So I always try whatever I do to find a balance between being professional. So, you know, like giving you this, feel that things are taking, taking care off in a professional way, but at the same time I really think about, okay, how can I make people feel this is home? And yeah. So I think that that's the secret sauce here.

 

Kevin (08:43):

Sophie, you mentioned that you grew up feeling weird. How, tell me a little bit more about that and how that connects to this this idea of, of creating a space where more people welcome.

 

Sophie (08:56):

Okay. In many ways first I was born in Morocco. I moved to France when I was four. So I think that's, you know having to like leave my, my, the country where I was born where my whole family was because what, so my first year I was so Noriko was my mower confirming the musky. My dad was French, my mom's Moroccan. So I was really like in this community made of like my family, my cousins, aunties, et cetera, friends that are, my parents had a very rich social life. They would play bridge, which is a card game. They would socialize a lot. We would always have dinners at home, et cetera, et cetera. And we had to move to France because of my, my dad's work. He was a teacher and he was given no choice, but to get back to France.

 

Sophie (09:48):

So he had to move on his own. And then with my mom, we could only join him like maybe a year later. So I think he'd had quite an impact about like, feeling like there is something, an easy, something weird going on. And so here I was moving to France and basically when moved to France, it was like a total shock to me because we moved into the signage village where we knew no one and people would look at us like, okay, these are the Arabs. So when I was like, my first days at school, I experienced racism because I, I was speaking Arabic and I was speaking French fluently. So I decided to stop speaking Arabic because I don't know what was going on. And I felt I was threatened in a way. Also another thing is my mom and dad, they had like a 25 year age gap.

 

Sophie (10:38):

So when people would see my dad with me, they would think he was my granddad. So there were a lot of things where it was like, okay, you don't fit in here. Also like the Juul heritage, you know, Morocco, Islam France, all these things that, that was quite a lot of things. And then also, I guess, growing up like my family, I wouldn't see, I had a, I had a happy childhood. Like I had a very strong relationship with my dad, but then my mom was having well, she still has like, quite a lot of mental health issues, which were putting a tool on, on, on the family. And you know, you feel when you leave those things and you watch TV and you hear people like living normal lives, you feel like, okay, what's going on here is not normal.

 

Sophie (11:37):

So maybe I shouldn't talk about it so much. What is going on? And then you kind of isolate yourself maybe more. So when you look at the friends that I had back, like on those times I had maybe like one friend and I would always be friends, the weirdos, basically the class. So that was basically the same. And I think also I cannot realize that growing up, this thing that made me feel weird, I decided to accept them as strengths. And so I kept having this like, feeling of being weird, but I embraced it basically. And I think embracing it, this made me make some choices in my life where I was like, Oh, whatever, I'll keep doing that because this is me and that's okay. And so if you look at like my curriculum, my professional curriculum, I did like many jobs when I tell people, they're like, okay, you're crazy. But he's like, I like,

 

Kevin (12:35):

Yeah, there's a nice little tie in with you know celebrating even the fun facts about that, your guests at that first meeting. And that, to me, that's a, that's a small, you know, it's a small step to celebrating and embracing the quote, unquote weird among people and setting that sort of tone.

 

Marjorie (12:53):

Also, it also sounds like the basis of being authentic and having those authentic type types of relationships because of those experiences, really kind of the crux of why you started lovers and friends and why it was important to you, that people meet and have these conversations in authentic ways versus putting on a mask and, you know, trying to be someone else in order to, in order to cultivate the kinds of relationships that they want.

 

Sophie (13:21):

Yes. Yeah. Because I think you know, w when I, when I look at it, for me, someone who will not share their weirdness, because they think they will be looked at in a way that's like they will be excluded or whatever. I feel like society is losing something, but if you have someone at your table and they don't share what makes what's make them different, you're losing on something. So I think one of the purpose I have in life is to create those spaces where people will share what, what is interesting about them, why they are different. That's, that's really something super important to me.

 

Marjorie (14:02):

That's, that's really amazing, you know, I'm all for the weird people, you know what I mean? We'll let weird folks unite.

 

Sophie (14:10):

Thank absolutely.

 

Marjorie (14:12):

Absolutely. So, after, after this first meeting you have this first meetup people came, they participated. How did you know that you were on to something after that first meetup? You know, was it, was it something that the attendees said or did that let you know, that you really had something here and that you were going to be able to, to, to create a community out of this gathering?

 

Sophie (14:35):

Well, we were in a bar, as I said earlier. And when the bar asked us to leave, because they were at closing, there were still, I think maybe 15 of us out of the 20 being like, okay, what do we do now? And we just went like next door, there was a nightclub. And we just went dancing until, I don't know, maybe 4:00 AM in the morning or something like that. So I felt, okay, there is something going on here. And then it's hearing the feedback from people telling me, wow. I felt like people are like me. That was so nice to actually speak to people in a way that's, judgment-free I'm not alone anymore. It's all these like this, this relationship that flourished and those amazing feedback that made me understand that because something right in the sense that I really manage and we really manage, because everyone was thought of that. We really managed to create this space, which was safe and where people really connected in a, in beautiful ways. And everybody wants more people were asking you, okay, when's the next one? And I want more as well. So that's how I felt we were onto something.

 

Marjorie (15:52):

It sounds like there, you know, there were definitely others out there. And I think that that's probably true in a lot of situations where people are looking for a safe space to have conversations about relationships and identity without having there be some sort of expectation of, you know, quote, unquote, something more coming out of it, you know, just a conversation like you're having a conversation with a friend about who you're dating or how you identify, or, you know, things that you're thinking about or feeling. So you know, I can definitely say as someone who is, you know, a part of the LGBT community that finding those spaces is hard. So tell me how, tell us how people find your community. What's, you know, what's usually the thing that helps get them involved or helps them find lovers and friends and start participating.

 

Sophie (16:41):

At the moment is really a word of mouth. So we have a lot of members joining because they're lovers and friends who are members still them about us. And also Instagram works quite well because we, we like to put first content sharing members, quotes members, question. We try to have conversation on Instagram as well with our, like the community here. So that's how people find us. We also, we are also super lucky to have members who are, as our guests, like seen as Instagram influencers and who share about their experience being a member of lovers and friends, which is great because in a way that helps people see what is lovers and friends through their eyes which is interesting because I guess you can have so many experience of being a member of lovers and friends, depending on, on your own identity.

 

Marjorie (17:44):

You started this community back in 2018, I think you said, yes. And, you know, there's this, this beautiful way that you bring people together in this face-to-face setting that really lets them get to know one another, have authentic conversations be themselves. And then wouldn't, you know, at 2020 brings us a global pandemic and

 

Sophie (18:10):

Someone said that to me, like recently, I was like, it it's a nice way to proceed.

 

Marjorie (18:18):

It took that safe space that you create an in a face-to-face environment where you're able to quickly you know, create that, that feeling of safety for people. And you now had to move this online where, you know, you, you, it's sometimes hard to tell what the intent of people of a person is in an online space. So talk to us a little bit about how you kind of navigated creating that safe and welcoming environment for members in an online space, where at a lot of times, those types of conversations in online spaces is not, is not supported in ways that that that help people feel like they have some safety.

 

Sophie (19:01):

Are we talking about Twitter? Sorry. Okay. I think just to, just to clarify, one thing that's quite interesting is at the time of hosting those social mixers, I think we had quite a part of the people attending, who were attending with like major intent, which was to connect people and maybe a minor intent of having those conversation. And I feel what happened and that's how we've been successful and in a way having to go online helped us on that. And I feel grateful for this is that moving online, there has been a switch where now people join us because this community is supportive. Community aspect is really enhanced. And in terms of how did this happen? It's quite interesting because it all happened in like a day. There's been this, this trigger where we had an Evans plans mid March, which was like a social mixer.

 

Sophie (20:19):

And at the time I was thinking that as a community leader, I was not comfortable at all about having people join a, an Evan, like meet each other and potentially be a cluster for the virus. So I decided to cancel the sevens. And at the same time, we had one of our members who was logged down in the land for like already two weeks. And I had conversation with him about, you know, how difficulty twice like that where, you know, it's interesting looking back now, it was this heated, I'm your future. What's going to happen to you. And you also said to me about the difficulties that it was encountering, because his partner who was in Berlin at the time, he didn't know basically how to keep things essential when they would meet each other again, and that was putting a toll on their relationship.

 

Sophie (21:11):

And so here I was canceling this evidence and thinking about him and realizing that that's the, that's where the committee should step in helping one of its member basically. And so on that day, I suggested to him that we all jumped on the Google meets at the time to just like, give him some support and see how we can help. And you agree to the idea. So I told the people who were supposed to come to the social mixer that night, that I was suggesting this, that everybody was super supportive, really interested with Joan. And that's how we had our first online evals that really gave us the direction. That was the impulse that was fundamental to what lovers and friends is now. And I guess after that, what we did is that we just get listening to our members to their needs, to what they wanted to do.

 

Sophie (22:06):

We experiment based on what they wanted to do, what they wipe station from the community and the, and that's how we managed to, to keep things flourishing. And I feel actually now looking back that before we had a community, but that was more ephemeral, I would feel the community when we have, when we had those mixers. But then in between there wasn't really anything like you would have like members meeting and telling you about it, but we didn't really have like the space where you could show that the community was here, 24 seven on call to help, and which was existing. And it's like, if before we had like, the country was like a flower bloom and then fade. And like, now we have like this solid Bush of like flowers solidly rooted because the community is here. And I know that if a member needs help from the community, we have what we have the features that they need to like, say, Hey, I want to talk about this. Or I want to talk about that. And the country will be here. We'll be present to help

 

Marjorie (23:06):

Like the meaning of community. Right. It's, it's evergreen. And it will always be there to, to assist its community members. But there was one thing that you said that I thought was really, really interesting. And I'd like you to talk a little bit more about if, if there's something there, but you, you talked about how, you know, the community members had one focus and one primary intent for gathering when you were face-to-face. And that flipped to making sure that they were able to have conversations around identity and relationships and things in a safe space when you went to the community. And when you saw that happen, or when you noticed that that happened, did you happen to notice if there was any sort of dynamic change in the, and who came to those gatherings now that they were online and, and the, the nature of those online gatherings seem to evolve as the community really understood what their needs were in this online space going from that face-to-face meeting?

 

Sophie (24:14):

Yes, of course. Of course. I think what happened is that when you look at the design of an online event, you always have this possibility for immediate gratification because people are here. So if you want to, I don't know, like leave the venue and go to a hotel room with someone you have possibility. If you want to go and pass your mind to someone, you have this possibility, but now that we are online, it's more something in a way it's, it's it's something that requires more effort to develop those relationships that you will have with one another. So naturally we had sin members living for those reasons, because I think they are more into, you know, the image edification of missing someone offline, the immediate results of that. And also, I guess we had some members, they didn't just because they're not that comfortable with the online setup, which I totally understand.

 

Sophie (25:16):

And then in university, we had people joining and, or even like people being like members being more active than they used to be, because they love the online setup where you get to, you get to talk and everything is really like conversation focused. And we can add some questions, dig deeper connect over, over, over the questions we have helping each other out like that. And interestingly, I think it's still, I was thinking about this recently. I feel like it has an even better impacts in a way, in terms of creating relationship. Because if you come to our events and you see someone on a regular basis and you hear them sharing their opinion on some topics, and you see, you see how they behave to something it's like discovering this person in this context and getting to the person and you deal a certain intimacy part of the group, then, then that you can take one-on-one to want, which is super interesting. It's a bit counter intuitive, but I feel like the outcome is beautiful.

 

Kevin (26:27):

So w what have you learned about, you know, starting and facilitating conversations online? I think when we talk to other leaders who may have done a lot of kind of in-person gatherings in person get-togethers and are thinking about starting an online watering hole and online space, there's a lot of there's nerves around putting people in the space and, and nothing happening, you know, putting people in the space and, and hoping conversations will flourish, but, you know, crickets what, what have you learned about you know, facilitating, starting prompting conversations with your community online?

 

Sophie (27:09):

The first thing that comes to my mind is that when I was a kid at some points I wanted to be a TV show host. And like, now I'm like, Oh my God, this is because like, sometimes, like I, I found myself in this situation where I'm like, Oh my God, he feels like I'm just TV show host. I want it to be, but why did I want it to be? And also, because again, nobody will believe that, but I'm quite a shy person. So being in the situation the first thing is that it's super scary. Because when I was hosting these offline Evans, I would welcome people. I would send them in the room full of strength, and I would be like, Hey, I'm here. I got your back. And I would just observe the room, make sure that everything was fine, but like now coming online here, I was in this like tight view of people's faces or looking at me.

 

Sophie (28:08):

And that's totally different. What I would say about that is I think it's it's, it's, it's great to encourage people to be themselves. So welcome extroverts introverts, and like everything in between everybody in between, in the spectrum giving like two to really make people feel comfortable that it's okay not to speak showing off his grades. If you, if you, if you're quite vocal the attention of your air time, why don't you invite someone to sit if you see that someone wants to speak, but they're hesitant. So in a way you like empowering people to make them understand that everybody's a host in a way. Also I would say another thing that I, I, I very regularly remind to people when we have those online conversation is awkward. Silences are greats. We love them. And there is no problem about those because sometimes I think you need that and you need people to be comfortable, even when there is a silence, because it's a great opportunity for them to reflect for them to look at each other, appreciate what's going on, you know, deep rooted in the moment.

 

Sophie (29:29):

So I think it's about reassuring people and pouring them. And then after like some stuff I've noticed, but to be honest, we are still trying to work out what works. And I don't think we have the, we, we, we are happy with the way we host conversations yet, but there are elements of the size of the room. So for instance, or conversation we have between, I think like six and 40 people, it can, you know, it's between various Switzerland, the same dynamic members one of our members recently suggested that we use the fishbowl technique. I don't know if you know about it, but we've, we've implemented that basically what we do is that we will tell people, okay, there is a feasible that sets 12 screens. If you don't want to, if you go on to be on the feasible, you just activate your camera and your part of the audience.

 

Sophie (30:19):

And if you want to be on the feasible, you activate your camera. So people that are on the feasible with the camera or on other people that can join the conversation and speak. And if you want to speak, you just activate your camera to join them. And then if you want to get some rest widgets activate, then you go back to George's, it's a bit complicated because then you have, you, you, you, you ended up being a distraction where people would be like, Oh, I don't see everybody. So I don't feel that safe anymore. Other people will tell you, I it's amazing to be here, or do you only because I can, you know, just listen to the conversation. So we are still trying to find words what works here.

 

Kevin (30:58):

Thanks for sharing. It sounds like part of you, you use, you said, you know, everybody's a host and part of prompting conversation online is an exercise in empowering them to be a host and perhaps bring more intention to what they do. Because some of that stuff that like easily happens when we're in person, when, you know, someone can interject, or someone could notice that someone else is quiet is, is harder to like sense. And it sounds like you're testing different ways to better empower people, to kind of speak up or not speak up when they want to, and also call out the things that may or may not happen. It sounds kind of almost be more explicit because we don't get all of those nonverbal cues with infer that we do get with in-person conversation.

 

Sophie (31:46):

Yes, yes, exactly. That for me, it's super important. And that's something that has happened since we had to switch online is that the members of LVRSNFRNDS are really given the opportunity to have an impact in everything that we do. And it's something that being online had Albert orchestrates better. And that I'm super enthusiastic about because we made this joke within the community where we say, Oh, we're not a cult because we had like a conversation. We'll see, we have like a dislike we'd hand sign to say that we liked something. So we had lots of like some sort of like private joke and, and that can make us look like a cult. So we like to say, we're not to call by the way. And then you have like, some members will call me. Yes, of course, super leader, basically the joke side.

 

Sophie (32:42):

That's that's really say's that I want to, like for me, something that we are building together and that's super important. And that's why I want you to be diverse because I think that having a diverse committee will enrich the conversation. It will enrich what we do is it's community. It's like, it's, it's really like a virtuous circle that I'm trying to, that we are trying to guilt. And then we really want everything that we do to be amplified by the members and amplified within the community, but also within the whole society. That's really what we want to achieve with what we do.

 

Marjorie (33:15):

You mentioned when you and I were talking that you work with your members on a member playbook so that members can feel like they're making the most out of their lovers and friends experience. Tell us why building this resource with your community members is important to you. And you know, how has, including them in that process helped them.

 

Sophie (33:37):

At the beginning, we wanted to have a community guidelines shared with everybody. But then we realized that coming up, coming to guidelines was actually something way more complex because you have to think about, okay, what's your mission? What are the principles? What do you, what do you require from your members? What do they expect from being a member? Thinking about all these? We felt like it's not something that we can do on our own. We had to go through so many things together that we really wanted to understand what brought people together, rather than come up with a guidelines. That would be okay, you should do this. You shouldn't do that. And that seeds, it was important for us to give the tools to our members to succeeds. So that's why the way we articulated this playbook, we have the guidelines like, well, the requirements, when you are a member, we have our process when it comes to come and check on stability.

 

Sophie (34:35):

So how do you report someone? For instance, if they act in a way that's not welcome in the community, but we also have those out two, like cheat sheets where we want to give resources for members. So we worked on inclusive language. For instance, we have one on how to have fulfilling conversations. Because I think what we do at lovers and friends is that we will create people. So there is a form to fill in, to become a member and you can be accepted or not. But once you are accepted, once you are part of this community, we believe in you. And we also believe that, no, one's perfect. So it's okay to up. I said, one nice way. They see the community and it's all about, okay, what's what happens next because everybody can up. But what do you do when it happens? Do you have a growth mindset or not, and how us as a community, we are accountable to tell you that you acted in a way that, that one seed and how us as a community, we give you the tools to actually do better and make something positive out of something negative. Basically,

 

Marjorie (35:49):

Sophie, what does this mean to your members to be included so deeply in how the community takes shape? I mean, that's something that you don't always see to have community members pretty much involved in every aspect and how it comes together, how it's governed, how it's moderated those types of things. So, I mean, I can only imagine that this really helps them feel some sort of, you know, some sense of ownership and some sense of, of, of responsibility for ensuring that this stays a safe place for people to have conversations and come together. What have they told you about how this helps them feel and what it does for them and their participation within the online community?

 

Sophie (36:33):

So we, we try to have evidence where we focus on site work to make the community better. So basically we have a bi-weekly workshop where we work for 90 minutes on a specific topic. So for instance, this be with your workshop, the last three sessions we were working on committee guidelines, and it's something that is open to every member. So everybody's welcome to join. And then on the quarterly basis, we have an oven, which is, we call it our town hall, where we share everything like finances, strategy, everything. And we ask questions to the members and we, we, we make decisions together. But about this be weekly workshop, for instance, the last time we had it, one of one of our members actually shared how they felt and forwards by the work that we do together, but also like how grateful they are, because they learn a lot about how to build a community, how to interact better in like society even. And you still gotta make sense to me because I am so grateful to be in, like, to have created this community. I am so in love with each and every one of the members, it's like, they are so talented. And I can understand that when we have conversation, everybody brings their skills. It's so enriching. It's amazing. Really?

 

Marjorie (37:51):

Is this community helped you? Like, what does this community mean for you? I mean, we've talked a little bit about how, you know, the, the community members feel about it and, you know, you said something that I really kind of want to double click on when you said that you were so in love with this community and their members, tell us more about how this community and seeing these folks come together and that way w what that, what does that mean to you?

 

Sophie (38:16):

He's means that I'm quite emotional. So I quite often end up being, like, looking at this screen. Like I look at the screen and I, I see everybody. And sometimes I just I work with my husband semi. So when we produce a level, sometimes be like camera of some of analytical tools. And sometimes I will look at him and be like, Oh my God, I'm so grateful. This is amazing. Just like missing how people help each other. And knowing that we make disposable, it say the most amazing thing ever how this has like it, like my whole life, what I wanted to do was have a positive impact on society and this is happening. So this is like amazing. I had those jobs where I had like good salary, but I was working for like, basically like shareholders and now, like I'm working for myself and I'm actually helping people.

 

Sophie (39:17):

I'm seeing the impact creating relationship, improving people's lives. It's just like the most amazing thing really. And then on the personal side or student housing helped me a lot because my relationship has helped me be better at communicating my needs, understanding the needs of the, of my partner and partners and friends. And, and also it has helped me feel stronger about my own identity. And yeah, like, you know, even like, in terms of like self-love and accepting who I am, when I think about me as a kid, I'm like, wow, can you be proud of that? That's cool. I feel like this is aligned with what, who I am. And and that's, that's great.

 

Marjorie (40:06):

That's awesome. Aside from an obvious global pandemic right now, what's, what's the biggest challenge that you faced with building this community?

 

Sophie (40:17):

I think the biggest challenge, it comes back to growing the right the right way, which for me means growing in a way that you maintain a shared intent and a diverse community. So I think one of the challenge that we have is to gain the trust of the less privileged in society so that they can trust us when we say this space is safe and you're welcomed here. And you, you have an amazing time with us. This is home, join us. I think that's, that's one of the, of the challenges that we have, because I feel like if you're a privileged person in society, it's easier for you to take risks. So it's easier for you to join a community like that without truly knowing what's what happens behind the closed doors. And we have to preserve our member privacy. So we cannot share that much. So it's finding a way to still make sure that we can attract the less privileged, because for me it's so important because it will bring us like different out-group different experiences. They will enrich the conversation and that's, that's key here. So that's, that's a challenge that I see, you know,

 

Marjorie (41:33):

That's especially a challenge when you're looking at, you know, creating that type of environment and space for people to come together and authentic ways. So you know, in all that, you've, you've learned over these these years with building this community. If there's someone out there who's really looking to create an inclusive space, that's welcoming that safe, that makes people feel like they can be who they are. What advice would you offer to them if this is something that they're looking thoughts? So for the looking to do.

 

Sophie (42:05):

I would say first that selecting the members of this community based on their value is super important. For me, it's super important to be aligned on these and on, on the intent of this community, so that there is like a common intent, then I guess I would to keep it inclusive, try to avoid using labels, to identify who those members are. So that's, it's more something that is welcome welcoming, and people won't be like deterred because you've used such a such label, but I know it's complicated the hook, but I would advise that then another thing super important, it's like sharing those guidelines, those, like you met your mission so that everybody understand that and that whenever your members join, they feel they're up to speed with each other. For instance, we do an onboarding session with your members, and I think it's something that's super important to avoid that like new members feel like they're joining something that's Kiki, or they don't understand the code and they don't truly feel welcome or they feel like they're the newbies basically.

 

Sophie (43:20):

So I think it's important, like the way it's the way you onboard new, new people in your community, and then creating this community accountability and also empowerment. So making people understand that the community is everyone and that everyone is responsible of what's going on here. And this is your community as well. It's something super important that everybody owns this projects, check power dynamics. That's something I kind of brushed with the decider on the onboarding, but be careful with spiral dynamics and also check privileges. It's interesting to see like how the, the, the privileges that have impact on society, how you can make sure that in your community, you can have like, make things right. And I have something fair, basically taking this into account, but truly like don't, don't close your eyes on those.

 

Marjorie (44:21):

So if you can, if you can wave a magic wand and wish anything you wanted for the lovers and friends community, what would you wish for?

 

Sophie (44:32):

That's a cool question. I think I think a lot of the members would say face to face meeting. And now that we have a members like all around the world, well, technically from LA to Tel Aviv, I guess I would ask for teleportation. So I could call a meeting anytime, anywhere Superman. So I think I would wish for that. But then I'm not granted superpowers something more down to earth, I guess I would wish for our community to, to find its people, whoever they are, and have as many local communities as needed so that no one feels left alone and they know that they can find supports and be themselves be celebrated as themselves have fulfilling relationships. Yeah, that's the idea.

 

Marjorie (45:46):

This has been such a awesome conversation and I have enjoyed talking to you.

 

Marjorie (45:59):

Hopefully, we can make teleportation happen for you. If people want to get involved with lovers and friends with the lovers and friends, community, how should they go about it? Where can they find you guys?

 

Sophie (46:15):

Oh so you can find us on our website. So lovers and friends.com where you can sign up. You'll see that it's quite counterintuitive because when you sign up, you basically have to fill in a 20 minutes form to send your application. And then we get back to you within, I would say a week or two max. Meanwhile, I highly highly recommend to check us out on Instagram. It's same. So it's a handle, these attributes and friends it's, it's quite a cool spot for us because we share members, quotes, member questions. We chat about stuff also here. So you can already like engage in conversation with us on, on, on, on the orange diagram and feel free also to reach out, to send a message I love to, to hear from you. So I'll be very happy to get some message about dessert recordings, but guests, that will be amazing.

 

Marjorie (47:14):

Well, again, this has been such a great conversation with you, Sophie. I could talk to you all day, but we don't have that kind of time. I just want to thank you for being a part of the podcast. It was amazing chatting with you.

 

Marjorie (47:37):

If you want to connect with Sophie Mona, Peggy, you can reach her@loversandfriends.com. That's L V R S N F R N D s.com or on Instagram at lovers and friends. Thank you to our team. Thank youRosanna for engineering and editing Greg David for his design work and Katie O'Connell for marketing this episode,

 

Kevin (48:01):

You can find out more about the work we do as people in company, helping organizations get clear on who their most important communities are and how to build with those people by heading to our website people and.company. And also if you want to start your own community or supercharge one, you're already a part of our handbook is here for you. You can visit get together book.com to grab a copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like this one. Finally, please consider reviewing the podcast, hit subscribe, hit review those reviews, those ratings make a big difference and help more people find out about it. Cool. Thank you for hosting this combo of Marjorie.

 

Marjorie (48:41):

Thank you. This was fun. This was a pleasure. Thanks for having me. Bye.