Finding our Villages: Communities and Connections

By Ednah Khosa

The people around us are just people, unless we are united in the same purpose and gather for the same reasons. We meet, we share out stories, we bond and create a sense of belonging, until they are no longer just people.  Then we become colleagues, friends, partners, mentors and family – a community. And we stay a community for as long as we share our experiences and exist in the same village.

A village at heart

When getting on with our individual lives is all we do –  reaching career goals and fighting our way to being the best, striving, achieving – we risk losing our connection to others, and with it  our humanity and our sense of ourselves.  Ten months into the pandemic, I realise that I have missed the joy of being closest to the people who made me the person that I am today – my family. This year has been a gift in so many ways, taking me back to where I come from, reminding me of my roots, taking me back to where I was raised, making me see the joy  and the struggles that still go on in the village.

It’s really amazing that it took a pandemic to have us sitting down for dinner at 7pm with our families; that it took a global crisis for us to be truly present to celebrate birthdays together; and it’s a shame it took a global pandemic to remind us of our roots and the places we are from.

I am from a family of 8 – there are 12 of us with cousins included – so I know what team work is. It takes two to make a meal, three to clean the house and two elders to provide discipline. Even so our interconnectedness as a community has become clearer to me as I recently settled back into village life. As I had the opportunity to walk around the village I watched women head for prayer sessions in the evenings and men look after livestock. I watched some fritter their lives away with alcohol. I  watched as my parents – the ones in our lives we thought had it all figured out  – call for help. I watched as my neighbours called from across the street to ask for sugar when they ran out. I watched as families went to their farms to plough when it rained after no rain for the whole month.  I watched as neighbours called to one another from across the street asking for seeds. I have never felt more alive or happier to be part of a community. We have learned to stay connected, to share, and to be each other’s keepers.

All these treasured things can be easily forgotten if all we do is to focus on our individual lives. When I am comfortable in the city it is easy to forget  that there are people looking up to us; there are people trying to connect; trying to reach out; asking for help; trying to build relationships and find ways to remember us as the people we were when we left the village.  After so many years, getting back to the village has been a reminder –  that it really does take a village to build a community. 2020 took us all back to the village – to recreating our communities, rebuilding our relationships and finding new ways to ensure that irrespective of the amount of change that is taking place, we need to  remember not to leave anyone behind.

The changes that came with the pandemic have also meant that organisations needed to have different strategies to stay connected and to build a sense of community. Now more than ever, people in many organisations have struggled with identifying with terms such as group, team or tribe as everything moved into a distributed, virtual world. Being a team takes a shared purpose, collective outputs, communication, focus, equal contribution, support, leadership, discipline, diversity and fun. To stay effective and achieve results, organisations have had to re-set, re-commit, re-engage, re-start and eventually re-build.

To start this process of becoming a team again working in our different spaces we need to explore and reflect on the  following questions . We need to step into a moment of reflection on our interconnectedness and our sense of ourselves in relation to others. We need to ask and answer:

  • What does having a community mean to you?
  • What are you giving to the community and what are you receiving from it?

In the Factor10 community we begin our sessions with the question “How are you – really?”  allowing individuals to authentically express and share their true feelings, to connect as humans first, before we connect as professionals. As the pandemic reached our own verandas and we started coaching virtually, virtual team connection sessions allowed us to connect from different spaces and times, to show up and to show up as their true selves, to know each other’s struggles, to share  each other’s strengths, to help each other rise because that is what a community does.

So as we continue to work from different places all around the world, a reminder to leaders – create a community within your organisation. Reset, recommit, re-engage, re-start and re-build. Return to your village. For this is where your true power lies – in your collaborative, collective being. – in your community.

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