When It’s OK to Talk to Strangers
I’m very lucky. In my line of work I meet a lot of trailblazers. But too often, promising projects and initiatives get stuck, or at least don’t realize their potential.
That’s why we created a monthly Give and Get. It’s a space for conversation where people of different backgrounds, fields of expertise and interests join together to explore one another’s projects and benefit from a sharpened focus, a larger view and meaningful insights for mutual benefit.
The More Diverse – The Better
Over the past 9 months, the projects have each been distinct and so have the creative solutions from all the givers and getters who have participated. Among us was someone who became energized to re-start a dormant cancer charity; an executive gained new ideas about how to brand her hospital; an artist got new leads to find new studio space in the GTA; a talented child educator received suggestions about how to find families with children who were having a tough time learning how to read; a careerist made new contacts to explore the blending of 2 fields; and the owner of a start-up took feedback that supported him to continue to move forward.
It’s precisely because the participants made up an eclectic and diverse group that the conversations were dynamic and special. These projects, like many more that we’ve heard and played a part in shaping, contribute to a vibrant city where creativity, connection and play flourish. Toronto, the city where Give and Get currently takes place, may be a city of neighbourhoods, but what continues to surprise us is how little we have meaningful exchanges with people unlike ourselves.
Naturally, many guests have commented that they are energized with the infusion of new ideas and support, and further, they feel positive about human beings generally after learning about what other people are up to in their lives.
Breaking Through The Bubbles
Of course there’s a reason for this. It’s comfortable for us to talk about what we care about with people we know: our friends, neighbours, relatives and co-workers. These people can be helpful. But it turns out that sharing our projects with people who we don’t know can generate ideas and offer information that are beyond our circles that can make our projects better. As a recent guest of Give and Get said about the value he received – “My workplace is a bubble. I wanted to hear new opinions and views, and I did.”
Moving our Game Forward
As experts in our own professional and personal lives, it’s easy for us to identify problems and challenges in our immediate environments. We may even be able to suggest a solution, but the stages of our projects — being stuck, seeing an outcome, sharing a vision, rejection, moving on and starting again may lack the benefit of multiple perspectives. Talking to strangers and experts in other fields and various walks of life brings these much-needed insights. This intimate group of strangers is perfectly suited to explore a project from a range of angles hidden from our view.
What makes feedback from strangers so compelling is that they aren’t constrained by the shared assumptions and values we expect from members of our own circles. They consider the project independently, helping us to get out of our own way so the project has a far better chance of succeeding. They have little to gain from criticism or flattery, so feedback is presented with genuine openness and curiosity.
How Can We Help You?
So welcome to the first blog post about Give and Get. This project has brought a lot of joy and learning about pioneering, starting, leading, running and even exiting those initiatives that make a positive difference for people. We want to share our insights and observations with you to promote your work on projects and extracurricular projects.
Attend one of our sessions! Want to push your project forward? Is there information you need? Perhaps you have an idea that you can’t quite nudge into focus? Would you like a fresh perspective on a project? Feedback?
Come join us and be part of something great!