© 2017 by Karen Gimnig. Proudly created with Wix.com

    gimnig@gmail.com   678-705-9007

    Photo Credits:

    Header, Pete Pages, Portraits, Cameron Anderson and Ashe Kazanjian

    Community Building: 

    My Journey of Discovery

    Nearly a decade ago, I was entering a new phase of parenting and launching our family into a new endeavor for which we clearly needed the support of a community. I found a group that seemed to fit the bill: welcoming, frequent gatherings, services offered. So I joined, and over the next couple of years, tried to find the sense of community I was seeking. When I was invited to join the leadership, I found myself brimming with ideas for strengthening relationships and increasing involvement of volunteers.

     

    Before I could even see it coming, I found myself enmeshed in a power battle fueled by passion and care for the group. Like many, I hadn’t yet learned how to shift conflict to collaboration, how to create safe spaces for disputes and channel passion toward common ground.  Instead, I did what our culture teaches best. I jumped into the fray, gathered what power I could and entered a contest for control of the organization.

     

    I lost. Badly. Which is how I found the calling for the next stage of my life.  

     

    Emotionally bloodied and feeling raw, I crawled into a hot bath for a long soak. Somewhere amidst the crying and gnashing of teeth, I realized that my loss wasn’t really the group I had battled for, but the community I had dreamed of building. I began to see that I could still bring my vision to reality, I was just going to have to start from scratch.

     

    Two days later, I gathered my courage and sent an invitation out to the internet. It contained a vision for a community built on the single goal of nurturing relationships. At each stage, we would ask ourselves how best to build connections between people.

     

    I didn’t know then that I was launching myself into a whole new way of being. The more I read about groups and relationships and the human need for connection, the more I found my own truth in the words of many others who do this work: Human beings are wired for connection. We need it as deeply as we need water, and creating it in modern society requires intention, dedication, and skills we may never have been taught.  

     

    My journey is one of gathering knowledge from and walking with others who seek connection and are willing to delve into the challenging places where relationships thrive.  Brene Brown has become a favorite author, teaching me that vulnerability is at the core of connected relationship. I have been supported by a faith community that models loving relationship and helps me chew on new ideas. I’ve learned the value of retreat and self-reflection. It turns out that my early career as a teacher gave me a lot of practice empowering those who struggled most to form relationships.

    The cooperative I founded has supported hundreds of families who came seeking guidance and camaraderie and found belonging. It is a space of shared leadership that I am proud to have influenced. It is joyful to see connections made, friendships formed and new members engaged as the group continues to shift and grow over time.  It was there that I realized my identity as a community builder. I made any number of mistakes and learned much about what it means to facilitate collaborative groups.

     

    As my children get ready to leave the nest and my focus shifts outward, I’m excited to be starting a career as a community builder. My first step was a year-long training to become an Imago Professional Facilitator. Wendy and Bob Patterson guided me in building the skills I need to act on my passion. I’ve gained experience working with groups I know well, including cohousing communities, communities of faith and non-profit organizations.  


    I’m excited to be helping groups of all kinds realize their dreams. Might your group be a good fit for my skills? If you are interested in forming a new group or strengthening an existing group in collaboration and connected relationships, please send me an email. I’d love to hear what you are passionate about.