why we're building The Commons
The two of us have been thinking about how community spaces can nourish cultures of play and human creativity for several years now.
Both of us started out running Salons and TED conferences back in college, and since then have been organizing retreats, fellowships, group houses, and more.
Along that journey, we’ve kept coming back to the importance of creating spaces truly dedicated to open exploration, community dialogue, and co-creation.
In America, studies suggests that we’ve lost half of the casual gathering places, or “third spaces”, that existed at midcentury — places that hosted the easy and informal, yet socially binding, association that is the bedrock of community life.
Old neighborhoods and their cafés, taverns, and corner stores have fallen to urban renewal, freeway expansion, and planning that discounts the importance of unified residential areas.
The decline of these spaces has in turn led to a decline of spaces for civic discourse, informal forms of mutual support, and other bedrocks of social trust.
The consequences of this decline in community dialogue show up as loneliness and insularity, political division, decreasing collaboration, amongst other health & social indicators.
“Life without community has produced, for many, a lifestyle consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community.”
Additionally, these meta trends at large further illustrate the need for 3rd spaces:
More people are moving into cities. 75% of the population will be living in cities by 2050.
However loneliness is at an all-time high. A recent survey found that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Over half—54%—feel that no one knows them well.
Religion's role in American society is shrinking. 1 in 4 millennials are not religious. As organized religion's role in society declines, we will need new institutions to meet the very real human needs for connection, meaning, and belonging that religion has traditionally met.
The rise in remote work increases loneliness and location optionality. People not only need a place to work outside of their homes, but also find social opportunities that can replace the traditional social networks born from in-person work.
Little daily errands we used to run IRL are now completed with a click of a button - we bank online, instead of going to the local branch; we get our groceries delivered in one-click instead of shopping among our neighbors at the grocery store; we even get diagnosed and prescribed online instead of seeing a doctor.
Paired with the pandemic, we saw how the lack of spaces for reflection and play were taking a toll on our collective and individual flourishing.
The Commons is our dream of revitalizing cities by creating new community spaces designed for belonging, serendipity, and intellectual / emotional nourishment.
It is our antidote against larger macros forces that are propagating loneliness and fragmented discourse. We are inspired by the Juntos, Enlightenment Cafes, Philosophy Salons, Vienna Coffeehouses, Asian teahouses, and Main Street’s of America. And seek to bring their spirit of inquisitivity and connection to our home here in San Francisco.
In talking to hundreds of friends and strangers about what was missing in SF, we too often heard the yearning for:
A sense of belonging, familiarity, and serendipity in both intimate and wide-reaching scenes.
An intellectually and emotionally stimulating environment to consistently return to.
A supportive community that shares their values of exploration, growth, creativity, and innovation.
More recently, we ran a brainstorm with members of The Neighborhood Project in SF on what an ideal third space could be:
Through this brainstorm, we dreamed up a new kind of third space. One that nourishes curiosity towards our inner and outer worlds. A place where connection to self & others through mind & body catalyzes personal and communal transformation.
The kind that blooms in places like college campuses and small close-knit towns. The kind in which an inordinate amount of social progress is alchemized through the opportune combination of values-aligned humans, and the spaces that housed them.
A culture where play, experimentation, and exploration are made easy, default, and exciting. Where events are designed to promote community dialogue, mutual support, and social trust. A culture that is co-created, accessible, and inviting.
With an influx of community spaces that orient towards a specific demographic or capitalistic outcome, we aspire The Commons to be different: co-created, aligned financial incentives, and pure, unfettered dedication to the self-actualization of its members.
In order to optimize for intimacy over growth, we don’t intend to take VC money. We are not an accelerator, community fund, or exclusive club.
Rather, we are a collective of humans with shared values of intellectual and emotional nourishment.
The space features a co-working “study hall”, cozy cafe, communal library, living room, philosophy salon/event space, meditation/yoga studio, maker space and multiple reading nooks.
Along with being a serendipitous place for you to converse or go deep in reflection, we’re hosting events to nourish playful curiosity and exploration. These include group junto dinners, salon talks, essay clubs, contemplative reflections, maker nights, game nights, meditations, creativity workshops, communal art, & much more.
The topics will range from tools for thought to urbanism, solar punk futures to philosophy canons, and creative writing to personal flourishing modalities.
It’ll also be a place you can go on a Friday night to listen to jazz and thumb through a book, as opposed to partying or drinking at a bar.
We couldn’t be more excited to actualize these ideals into the first community space dedicated to residents of The Neighborhood and San Francisco more widely.
To creating social infrastructure for the next Renaissance,