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Connecting Community Leaders Across the Country

May 3, 2013

On Tuesday, April 30 we held a social media experiment with some of our most enthusiastic community leaders across the country to talk about “How to Get Started Building Community.” One of the risks of holding an experiment is that something could go wrong. In this instance, we had intended to broadcast the conversation live, but we could not get the broadcast or recording to work! We sincerely apologize if you were trying to tune in. 

Despite the technology hiccups, the conversation between our panel of experienced and newer community organizers was fun and dynamic. To initiate the conversation, we introduced ourselves and shared our community projects. It was inspiring to hear about the work of other groups and also a good reminder that each community of teachers and studio owners has unique needs. While some communities may have a pressing need to rally behind, others can benefit from simply getting together. 

Several community leaders participated in the hangout:
  • Katie Desmond, RYT 200 from Virginia
  • Roger Rippy, E-RYT 200 from Texas, Yoga Alliance board member and secretary of the Texas Yoga Association. Roger is a yoga teacher, studio owner and attorney who is involved with many nonprofit and community organizations. Roger was also involved in the Texas yoga community’s successful campaign against the state regulation of yoga Teacher Training Programs.
  • Alison West, E-RYT 500 from New York, executive director of Yoga for New York (The New York Yoga Association). Alison became a dynamic community leader in 2008 when she led a charge to overturn the state regulation of yoga teacher training. They ultimately defeated the regulation and she continues to organize teachers and studio owners in New York.
  • Jen Campbell Munn, E-RYT 200 from Maryland, founder of the DC Yoga Teachers Collective (DCYTC)
  • Joanna Dunn, E-RYT 500, RPYT from Washington, organizer of community gatherings of yoga studio owners and teachers in central Washington. She has been organizing meetings for the past several years.
  • Meta Hirschl, E-RYT 500 from New Mexico, a long-time community instigator in Albuquerque. She attended our happy hour reception a couple of weeks ago and organized a group of teachers on the spot to participate in our Local Community Initiative.
  • Stacey Shanks, E-RYT 200 from Indiana, a community leader who regularly brings her local yoga community together. 

Tips on building community

Below are some of the key lessons we learned from the conversation.

1. Set your vision
The first thing one should do when starting a community group is set the vision. The group’s vision unites members around shared goals and interests, and can be used to vet investments of energy, time and resources on potential projects and events.

Roger initiated the discussion on vision, saying, “It is important to set a vision for your group right from the beginning. If your group is successful, other people will want to get involved and will ask your group to take on additional projects. If you have a vision, you know which projects fit with your vision and which ones are outside of the scope of your group.”

Meta remarked, “It all relates to setting a positive sankalpa, or intention, for the group. We have had various community groups over the years and I want to connect with others in a positive, growth-oriented way.” 

2. Acquire resources from the beginning
While groups often start on a volunteer basis, with individuals giving their time and effort, it is important to create a rough budget and plan for resource needs at the very beginning, so the group does not fizzle.

Alison shared, “If you know your group is going to need resources to accomplish your priorities, get the commitments up front while there is still enthusiasm. Tell people, ‘This is what we want to do (newsletter, website, events, etc.) and this is what I need to do it (money + time).’”

3. Start small, with those you know
Recruitment can be challenging. By starting small, with acquaintances that know you and support you, you can grow your membership from just a small number of initial members.

Joanna’s group is an informal networking and discussion group and she suggested, “Starting small is fine, start by reaching out to people you know!”

4. Learn from the experience of others

Jen started organizing yoga teachers in Washington, DC in October 2012. While still in the beginning stages, her group has had several successful meetings including one attended by Yoga Alliance president Richard Karpel. DC Yoga Teachers Collective also held a well-attended panel discussion with successful studio owners and teachers to talk about how to sustain a successful yoga career. She said, “Talking in this way, with leaders from various communities, to share ideas is really helpful to me and the DCYTC.”

Stacey has completed two Off the Mat Into the World Yoga In Action groups in her Midwest yoga community and is interested in forming a new group for yoga teachers and studio owners through the Local Community Initiative. This conversation was a great starting point.


Join us for the next community hangout!

Our next topic will be about using online tools to organize community. Interested in participating? Contact Katie Desmond at community@yogaalliance.org if you would like to join an upcoming Google+ hangout. Once we have enough interested participants to form a good discussion group, we will send out a doodle poll to find the best date and time for the next panel. 


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