Three weeks ago, we began a new community in San Francisco. Bringing this community together is one of the most fulfilling things I've done so far in my life. Period. This post details my motivations & my fears, the philosophy of this community, and the difficulties, and I hope it will be helpful to anyone hoping to start a new chapter of this community.
For me the main inspiration of Salon is a community centered on intellect, curiosity, creativity, support, and social connection. Thinking back to college, some of my most memorable experiences are staying up with friends, discussing diverse subjects that I never formally studied- politics, philosophy, the direction of the world, economics, art - just to name some. Being surrounded by diverse people meant that I was constantly being exposed to new ideas, new viewpoints, and new subjects which I had never considered. After graduating, I was shortly surrounded by co-workers and exposed to little more than the domains touched by my work. Salon is for me a way to reinvigorate that curiosity & intellectual spirit.
Secondarily, Salon is also a community to foster growth. Salonites are smart and full of valuable advice, and some growth happens at Salon through plain mingling between people, sharing of ideas and feedback, and challenging assumptions. Much of growth also happens sustaining a current trajectory through time, and to that end the atmosphere of Salon is also incredibly supportive - a place to share joy, sadness, frustration, and success.
I first went to my first Salons at the original Stanford location about a year ago, and only a few times. I liked the idea, but it didn't fit into my life at the time. Two events triggered my resolve to begin a San Francisco chapter. The first was re-visiting the Stanford Salon. I connected with people in a way that I hadn't connected to in months, met an incredible number of people whom I wanted to stay in regular contact with. The second trigger was attending Interact, an annual summit of entrepreneurial minds.
Through both these experiences, I was just floored by the positive energy. There is so much human potential. Truly amazing things happen when you get lots of smart, passionate people in a room together and let things happen. I wanted a way to keep that spark and human spirit alive, and Salon is that environment.
The idea to start the Salon was already brewing in my mind as I attended these events. I'd bring up the topic in conversation and almost everyone was hooked by the concept. This gave me a mental list of people I knew would attend and help make the event a success from the beginning. Running a Salon is also a fair amount of work, it's important to lessen that burdon with a co-founder (or two). While I had no official co-organizer at the first Salon, I had the help of friends in San Francisco as well as the original Stanford Salon. I did a lot of thinking and had several conversations to find a co-organizer, which I think is important to do fairly quickly. The venue was fairly easy to find, as it's currently in my apartment building (which I've since moved out of). It's not ideal, and we're actively searching for a new one. So the initial checklist
This list is in addition to the work that needs to happen every single week:
It's suggested to hold Salon Monday or Tuesday evenings, so that the good feelings and inspiration will carry throughout the week. It's best to send invites out a few days before for the first month or two, before a rhythm is established. After that, a day in advance is usually sufficient.
Communication is currently almost entirely through Facebook, which has pluses and minuses. The communication, and especially communication across all Salon chapters and between Salon chapters, is a topic I've been actively talking about with other organizers.