It started when I was a little girl, organizing everything from sleepovers to surprise parties, from swing dancing classes to scavenger hunts. In 7th grade, I tried out for the basketball team and threw up during the first practice. They made me the team manager. And the same thing happened with high school rowing. I became Atlantic City High’s senior class president, and my college sorority president. Without realizing it, I had stepped into every leadership role I could as a kid, driven by a natural inclination to gather, motivate, and connect people.
When I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel from New Jersey in 2010, I left behind everyone I had ever known and moved into a vast urban landscape of loneliness. Without my people around me, I had no idea who I was. My cozy blanket of community had been lifted and now I was exposed to this big, bad world all on my own.
After what I now dub “the dark age,” which included months of depression and finally being tired enough of myself to commit to a new personal process, I began to seek a brand new kind of community—one that fulfilled my own needs for deep connection, meaningful conversation, and a supportive sisterhood.
And so I began organizing once again. What had started as a series of pop-up experiments became School of Shine, a passion project, and my own carefully quilted cozy blanket of community. Today, School of Shine is woven together by brave women from around the world who crave personal growth, creative expression, and unconditional support.
When I was approached by Yaakov from Wisdom Tribe, who was in need of a Community Manager, I was finally able to apply my community building skills not only for my own needs, but for a graciously growing tribe and our slew of heart-centered clients, too.
Why does this matter?
Every human has the universal need to belong, contribute, and be connected to others. Communities are those cozy blankets created to cover those needs. These days, “community” is a buzzword, discussed en-masse - but we must remember – every community is made up of individuals, who each bring their own perspectives, ideas, and beliefs – and who are looking for a vessel in which to fulfill their own potential.
A community can offer all of these things both online and off, and when communities exist, so do spaces for people to grow into themselves: to learn, to challenge, and to process together. These are spaces where people can gather with those who have the same mission in mind, yet also express their individual sense of purpose to move, make, and motivate.
Science says that belonging and contribution are the top two things that actually matter to living a happy life. And in today’s digital age, authentic connection is needed more than ever. Communities matter, and finding one or creating your own can be key to your long-term happiness – and your personal and professional success.
Your Community-Building Roadmap
1. Start with WHY. Simon Sinek said it best. “The WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us.” This is WHY people seek communities.
Why does the Wisdom Tribe exist? Despite being Jews of all different backgrounds and beliefs, we are bonded by our cause - to share Jewish wisdom with a global tribe. It’s the reason a Hasidic dude can sit with a secular Tel Avivi and flourish in deep conversation, creative ideas, and tribe building.
2. Communicate authentically. The age of marketing manipulation is over. People who speak your language will be pulled towards you; there is no need to push. A true community is built with true leaders who dare to be themselves, share their vulnerabilities, and express just who they are – which creates a space for those who feel connected to do the same.
When leaders can shed their egos and share based on their own humanity, they open doors for others to do the same.
3. Create community guidelines. What kind of space do you want to create? What are the rules, values, and terms that everyone can agree to keep to create the safest space?
Once upon a time, I went on a retreat to Barcelona. The first thing we did as a group was decide on our guidelines. Things like: Speak with good intention, consent is necessary, and respect rituals. It set the space for people to share what mattered to them, and set collective boundaries so people could feel safe within the community built that weekend.
4. Build layer by layer. Communities aren’t built in a day. They are built step by step, person by person. If you speak to the masses you may not succeed. But, if you begin with the sole souls, empowering each one by one, natural layers of impact will ripple outwards.
Its a common sentiment in marketing that if you speak to everyone, you speak to no one. That’s why the more real you are and the more of your own language you speak, the more you will attract the people who will truly belong, connect, and contribute to your community.
The Final Thread
“It takes a village,” they say - and the sentiment hasn’t changed. What has changed is our capacity to find and create our own villages. What has changed is our conscious need to seek out these villages for ourselves. In our digital age of disconnection, we as humans will forever seek solace in our villages, our communities, and our tribes. This is a basic human survival tactic.
Lucky for us, basic survival is fairly easy for most of us in today’s day and age - and the beauty of community is that it can support us as we not only live, but thrive. As we continue to develop as individuals, we are also developing our communities, bridging aspects, combining flavors, and blending beliefs. Eventually, our different threads of truth will form the fabric to make that cozy blanket that binds us all together.
Whether you want to start your own community or join one, I challenge you to ask yourself: what is your thread, and what tapestry would you like to weave yourself into?
Based in the startup city of Tel Aviv, Zo Flamenbaum is a hippie entrepreneur who is professionally passionate about wellness, wisdom, writing, and chocolate croissants. Zo is driven by community, connection and creativity and works as Wisdom Tribe's Community Manager by day. By heart, she founded School of Shine as a positive resource for spirited women who aspire to explore, express and empower their own healthy and happy lives daily.