πŸ“» β€” Creating Societal Movements Through Community with Kobie Fuller & Gordon Bellamy

Reading Time: ~ 6 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

We’re half-way through this second full-week of 2021 and it already feels a bit “old hat” if you know what I’m saying! We’re going to make it and we’re going to be victorious! I believe it. Let’s do it.

A few good reads before we jump in:

  1. Discord and TikTok are the new trading desks via WSJ
  2. Jaeson Ma: East, West, One Nation, Under God via Justin Kan
  3. What social networks can learn from platform spaces by Casey Newton
  4. Webflow raises $140M in Series B. Wow.
  5. Climbing the wrong hill via Chris Dixon; also, great podcast.
  6. YouTube. Trump. Ouch.

Have a great day folks!

To infinity & community,

β€” john


In this honest and candid conversation between Kobie Fuller of Upfront Ventures and Gordon Bellamy, a Visiting Scholar at USC Games, we walk through a number of important topics.

At a high-level, they cover these in sweeping form: The combined power of individuals working together make movements and how these drive social, political, and organizational change. Community is key component in driving societal progress in this moment of history where we need it the most.

They jump right in! Gordon shares that he started his career designing video games, specifically Madden Football, and founded a community called “Gay Gaming Professionals” and he teaches at USC in LA.

Early-career, Gordon recognized community as a “pillar of play” and when he recognized an opportunity to “democratize the development community” he wanted to invite other folks who didn’t have the access that he did to participate.

One way that he did this was putting his personal email in the (gaming) manuals allowing folks who wanted to connect a direct route to him. Gordon goes as far as claiming “access” as-part of his identity is both strong and powerful β€” I love how clear he is about what he’s about!

Gordon shares a poignant story of being part of a queer list-serve and community but how they couldn’t even properly or formally identify themselves because it might jeopardize their employment.

But this leveled the playing field because the CEO to the employee could participate equally, anonymously, developing trust and value with one another. This eventually lead to the development of their own community experience, where they could share their real names, faces, and identities. Facebook helped scale some of this as well.

Kobie and Gordon share candidly thoughts on “safe places” and how all relationships have natural bias. What Gordon means by this is that he wanted to create environments where the “default space” is where the majority are like them.

In many ways this helps establish better and more clear lines between what is “safe” and what is “not safe,” especially for folks who may not have ever experienced unsafe spaces.

This hits home, especially for marginalized and under-represented groups! I appreciate this better approach and language choice that may be a bit more respectful towards more people.

One activity that I excavated from this thought was thinking through what you want as your “default” for your community. In other words, what is the “default personal” or “default community member”? What is their story, their background, their interests and hobbies and curiosities?

This can help you better determine who you’re serving the outcomes that they are looking for. This is a better way of building community, in my opinion β€” purpose-built communities!

They continue to chat about how to vision cast for the future of a community using Gordon’s own organization and framework. For him, it’s all about purpose: He loves helping people get from point A to point B, especially if they don’t know how.

For Gordon, it starts with education and democratization of information β€” something every yenizen can get behind! β€” employment, and career coaching, showcase of expertise, and entrepreneurship and ownership of small businesses.

Gordon continues:

There’s a difference between waiting on the world to act on you and you acting on the world.

Gordon Bellamy

There are many opportunities to “act on the world in a meaningful way” and measurable ways, every single day. He speaks directly about being in communities where you can work on ideas together with other folks and building things together!

Being a change-maker in each and every space that we’re part of is crucial, and thinking in not just small ways but scalable ways. Kobie shares some specifics about his work with Valence Community, which started as just a small website and eventually became a platform:

In this small space he was able to build a community, specifically for the black community, where he could create bridges between silo’d organizations and it resonated with a wide audience.

But, Kobie shares his own insecurities and doubts about the mission and how it’s actually working toward accomplishing the mission that he originally designed. Then, a number of the tragic deaths β€” like George Floyd β€” became a macro-event that sparked even greater interest.

And, like most folks, he didn’t start with the mission of building a community around racial disparities; it just became that, a “calling” and a “burden” that Kobie couldn’t let go of; he had to do something about it.

I love this via Gordon:

Part of the value of a community is a having not just a sense of belonging; it’s also about having a sense of pride that your identity actually matters β€” that it’s additive.

Gordon Bellamy

Everyone does this with their communities and how this works via game mechanics is leaning into the principles of the “aesthetics of play” and the “aesthetics of fun” β€” things like fellowship, learning, competition, and cooperation.

When folks can have those win-win situations, like proper game theory and community design, they can combine elements of both to incentivize and deepen trust and fundamental stickiness.

Finally, a bunch of questions and answers:

  1. How to create “Default Spaces”? β€” Over-index on under-represented groups, as far as you can go. Also, asking “non-qualifying questions” instead of qualifying ones (ex: “what inspired you to get into games” vs “what school did you go to?”).
  2. Building trust, any tips? β€” Trust is a two-way street so it begins with listening. Trust, Loyalty, Goodness (concentric circles). If you don’t really know your community then you can’t actually serve them. Identify positive behaviors and traits that we’re trying to affirm and celebrate. These are investments that you have to make, more deposits than withdrawals.
  3. The Story Of Gordon’s Shirt β€” He plays recreational dodgeball and did some crazy ass shit. Watch the video below!

What a fun time! Here’s the full chat:

/end


One of the hardest things about building a new project, business, and/or community from scratch is that it’s almost impossible to know β€” especially in the super-early stages of development β€” if you’re making progress.

That’s why it pays to be in a community yourself! It amazes me how many folks try to build new projects or businesses or communities without first being part of a few really healthy and helpful ones yourself.

In fact, part of my own success has been predicated on the fact that I joined the very communities that I ultimately sought to serve! Imagine that.

And after listening to Kobie and Gordon chat candidly about their own experiences it’s clear that they know, viscerally, the power of not just communities but how they are a fundamental ingredient in major shifts in society and culture.

And we’re doing some of that in the YENIVERSE! We’re looking to democratize community building for everyone! We’re giving folks community-building superpowers via our technology and it’s my personal goal this year to help 1,000+ creators / startup founders launch profitable, community-centric projects in 2021!

But the only way that’s going to happen is if you become the person that you were destined to be. More sobering: If you want to be an entrepreneur, community builder, and/or startup founder someday… why wait?

You know how you get there faster? Relationships are the unlock! Being in the right community is how you get there.

Consequently, we’re slowly opening up our Alpha for more business / community builders! If you’d like to help us test-drive our new technology platform for community builders we’d love your help!

We’re looking to 10 folks to join us β€” here are two important, high-level details of our current state:

  1. This is an early, working version of our platform! Help us identify bugs and work out the kinks! There are a lot! For instance, it’s desktop-only for now; mobile is coming!
  2. We’re looking for active creators, business / community builders. Meaning, you’re seriously working on a project that you intend to grow, monetize, and support throughout 2021 and beyond.

Interested?

To apply, provide an overview of your project in a comment! Please include any and all details that would help us understand what you’re building, your commitment level, and your current progress!

We’ll review them this week and send out invites soon!

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