Building the Comwune: Collectively & Collaboratively

“Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”- Helen Keller

Over time, the word “commune” has come to mean different things to different people. The general definition describes it as “an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often resources in common”. Your mind may stray and envision a bunch of “hippies” living together growing gardens and dancing in large circles, for the most part dismissing the expectations of mainstream society. However, there are fundamental characteristics of a commune that can be reinterpreted and repurposed to address our inherent need to belong to something- especially during these unprecedented times and the accelerated evolution of the remote “digital” world.

Before I get into the “what”, let me start with the “why”.

My parents fled Communist Romania in 1981, a time when the country and people were being ravaged by the brutally oppressive Ceaușescus and their infinite need for power and wealth. During this time, you were either living in the city struggling to feed your family with what rations you could get after hours waiting in lines or you lived in the country, doing whatever you could to get by. Fortunately for both of my parents respectively, they lived in small villages where sharing what you had was more about just being gracious- it meant survival. Having spent two years in a refugee camp just outside of Rome, Italy, Canada accepted them in 1983 and they started their journey in a strange country where they knew no one. Not able to speak the language, they did their best working odd, multiple jobs until 1987 when my father purchased his first transport truck and became a long-haul driver. Unable to cope with city life in Toronto with three little children, my parents eventually made the decision to buy a farm and raise us the way they had grown up. While there was a community of other Romanian immigrants and family on my dad’s side close to us, my parents led socially isolated lives- my father on the road weeks at a time, and my mother managing the homestead doing her very best to raise us with no support system in place.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been responsible for something and someone. Given the language barrier and my parents’ inability to navigate all aspects of Canadian life, I was often tasked with “figuring” things out on their behalf. I had developed a very maternal instinct with my younger brothers and always felt inherently responsible for them. I fed them, taught them, and usually served as the facilitator in all things related to home and school.

You could say the role of facilitator was defined for me years before I realized it within a professional working context. Regardless of whatever job I had, I thrived working collaboratively and sharing ideas and perspectives with others. Fortunately for me, I realized very early on in life that the best way to teach (and learn) was to share. Share stories, share experiences, and share perspectives. Anyone that knows my father will tell you he is the best storyteller they’ve ever met. Maybe it’s the authenticity of his experiences or the nostalgia it conveys. Maybe it’s just the accent. 🙂 Either way, I inherited his love for storytelling and it has been valuable for me throughout the years.

I truly believe stories inevitably define and shape us. There is nothing more powerful (and cathartic) about sharing an experience you’ve had and it resonating with someone so strongly, that it inspires them to learn and change something in their lives for the better. In turn, they will go out in the world and share their story. The cycle continues and before you know it, empathy and self-awareness push us to become the people we want to be and allow us to forge the connections we will value for a lifetime.

2020 has been a defining year for us all. The pandemic has had a big part to play in that. From a corporate perspective, organizations have shifted their focus to enabling a remote workforce to mitigate disruption so that they can continue operating. Millions of employees have been confronted with the reality that they now work and live in the same space. The positive side of this? Now more than ever, we can celebrate the intersectionality between our professional and personal selves. However, the implications of Covid-19 have forced us inside and away from our teams, friends and family. Social isolation, anxiety and depression are on the rise and for most, it is difficult to maintain a balance in our lives that allows us to prioritize self-care, family obligations, and learning and development.

COMWUNE strives to bring together women from different parts of the world with divergent experiences in this new virtual reality. Together we can connect, share knowledge and perspectives, and become inspired by one another.

Engaging with professionals, senior leaders, coaches and advocates, we will be facilitating various virtual sessions where women can come together to share, learn and ask questions. The goal is to build a community of diverse women who can come together, share stories, exchange ideas, and impart best practices in a safe place.

Interested in learning more about COMWUNE? Connect with me directly and join the LinkedIn COMWUNE group. Or follow us on Instagram @comwune for content and upcoming sessions!

In the meantime, tell your friends!