We seek out “stretch” opportunities, we don’t flinch at the sound of change. We look at relocation as an opportunity to expand our horizons. We know that everything feels hard before it becomes our norm. We are used to change. We are experts at managing the chaos that comes with the sometimes scary bits of our lives. We have the answers and wisdom not even Google has! We are the masters of what is to come. It’s our super power! – Naomi Hattaway
As we lead up to the big reveal of the website and new community platform (we’re packing up our proverbial boxes from Facebook and moving to a new platform called Mighty Networks), it was important that I take an opportunity to share transparently and openly about all of the reasons for this move and what the future of I Am A Triangle looks like – from my vision and desires for the community.
To learn more about the details and rationale behind this decision: read the FAQ post
I have long been in love with the concept of community. I realized that my mother instilled this desire in me when she modeled the concept for our family early on in our lives in rural Nebraska. I was born to a black father and a white mother in the early 1970s when it wasn’t quite as accepted as it is now. Add to that, we were homeschooling (before it was legal to do so). To say that we needed community is an understatement.
Today, ‘community’ has become a bit of a buzz word and may be considered to be overused, however that doesn’t change the way I feel about it. When it’s being experienced, it feels like a cozy blanket, a warm hug, a cuppa of your favorite bevvy. It feels like you belong, that you are welcome and supported. If you do NOT have it, it’s a noticeable void in your life. Community can take hold in different ways (online, in person, etc.) and can be geographical in nature, found because of similar or common identities and often takes shape when shared affinities or activities takes place.
In each place I have lived, I have quickly latched onto community (in various forms) and then also intentionally sought out ways to give back to my communities. In Omaha, Nebraska, I volunteered heavily with Habitat For Humanity. In Cleveland, Ohio, I created Rock-N-Tot (a family dance party!), a mom’s only running club, and a Global PlayDate.
In India, I joined a small group of ladies to create Make a Difference in Delhi, and kickstarted a project to allow incoming families access to the American Embassy School when the grounds were otherwise closed for the summer and created a buddy program to help those new students feel a bit less alone. In Singapore, I led the charge to create a safe crosswalk for our neighborhood children to reach school as well as brought Senior Spirit to Singapore American School (a carryover from what other moms of Seniors had done in other international schools). In Northern Virginia, I assisted with the birth of Ladies of Lucketts, a thriving group for local ladies to come together for fellowship, support and to support local businesses.
These examples are not just initiatives I joined or started, but were in fact, community being created. Friendships were born, problems were solved, children and adults alike were positively impacted and — in each and every case, I was incredibly moved and inspired by the sheer beauty of watching a community come together. (Side note: have you seen Derek Siver’s Tedx Talk on how to start a movement?)
In the middle of this, our family moved back to the United States after four years overseas and I found myself deep in the cavern of no longer fitting in. I felt alone, confused and without any motivation or drive to do what comes naturally to me – create and seek out community. When we prepared for all of our past moves, I incessantly researched our new home. I pored over books at the library to learn all I could about our upcoming relocation. However, for the repatriation (or reentry as the process has been called) journey, I assumed I had it covered and didn’t need to spend any time learning about the reverse process of returning “home.”
My mom had since moved to Kenya to serve as a missionary and in a debrief session delivered by Mission Training International, she learned of the triangle analogy. When the same was shared with me, and when I allowed the concept to sink in, it immediately made sense. I wrote a blog post in September of 2013, I Am a Triangle and Other Thoughts on Repatriation, and as of today, it’s been viewed over 118,000 times. As a result of that concept resonating with other individuals, my email inbox began filling up with stories. Those who identified with the Triangle concept wanted to share that they too, felt those same feelings of abandonment, struggle, isolation and assumed they were the only one.
Facebook had just recently launched its Group Products (primarily for the purpose of families connecting or groups of friends to stay connected) and I jumped on the opportunity to create a place for those individuals to meet each other, share and offer support and to provide a virtual community for those who felt they had lost theirs due to recurring relocations or being the “Stayer” when everyone else close to you leaves.
What you see today when you visit the I Am A Triangle Facebook group is 16,000+ individuals who show up on a regular basis to offer support, share laughs, commiserate together, hold each other up through messy family situations, even help to secure employment, the list goes on and on. It has been a beautiful journey of growth and is an amazing example of what happens when a group of people has trust and faith in each other. It is also a stunning representation of what happens when commonalities are the initial introduction, but the differences in all of us becomes what holds us together.
The stewardship of this community began as a very simple desire to get everyone “in the same room” and over the past four years has turned into a full-time job (albeit, one that is unpaid) that has required leadership, personal growth and a flexing of some serious empathy and kindness muscles. The fact that our community is a beautiful, kind and responsive online community is due to two factors. First and foremost, because of the contribution of the members and their willingness to keep coming back into the community to ask questions, be vulnerable, and support each other on a 24/7, 365 basis. Second to that, the community has become what it is today because of the consistent and constant care-taking and watchful eye that I have given to it. I do not say this to be egotistical or to diminish the reality that without individuals IN a community, one does not exist. I state this because often I feel challenged and restricted with the features and administrative help that Facebook lends to its Group owners, but I have dedicated myself to work around those limitations and seek out ways for the community to flourish, expand and be a place that has been quote as saying “the kindest place on the Internet.”
As our movement currently exists in Facebook, we are not able to move forward in any logical way that makes sense for our members, and it feels as though one hand is tied behind our backs. Last year at about this time, the decision was made to begin creating a resource website. Simultaneously, a search was commenced to seek out alternatives for our community so that we would not be required to stay committed to Facebook. Several iterations of options and LOADS of research later, I had resigned myself to using a clunky interface called BuddyPress, a WordPress plugin. It would operate like an old school forum and while it wasn’t ideal, it was the only option.
Building an app was what I most wanted to do, but the cost was prohibitive. This was how that conversation went.
Me: “How much would it cost to build an app that would do [insert 15 features, including a conversation forum]?”
Developer: “Could be between $10,000 – $25,000, give or take … depends on how robust you need it to be.”
Me: “Are you serious? That’s way out of any budget I could ever comprehend.”
Developer: “Well, that’s just for iOS and would probably would only cover v1.0”
Me: “Well, Version 1.0 would be a good start right? I mean, it would at least get us going?”
Developer: “No, that’s more likely what you’ll want to start testing on and getting beta users on. If you want to actually have it be useful for your community, that’s more like $100,000 + once you go through enough versions to get it right.”
Massively disappointed, I decided to continue maintaining a strong focus on working on the resource website and continued my work with the community inside the Facebook group. We launched TriCONNECTs which were widely requested by members and saw a handful of them really take off and have massive success gathering members together in cities all over the world. We expanded our TriCONNECT concept to serve other groups for our members, including our LGTBQIA+ population, those who serve in the military (all branches, worldwide!), our solo / single members, etc.
What began as an obvious need for a community in one big open “room” was quickly turning into a desire by our members to have specific support, and in a smaller group environment than speaking “out loud” to an extremely large community. The psychologists and therapists in the group were starting to reach out to me to ask why I thought our members – who are veritable strangers to each other – had such trust in our community, and had such ease in being vulnerable with each other.
I truly believe it is because of the culture I have developed and insisted on, the stick-to-it-ness of our leaders who have volunteered their time and energy, the evolution of our community policies, our standards of care with each other, and our refusal to allow bullying, bashing or otherwise being unkind. I’d love to learn of any other truly international online community that has such impact, such kindness and such devotion from its members.
In addition, our community is as strong as it is because of our leadership — individuals who all volunteer of their time to help run the TriCONNECTs. Scheduling events, showing up to help members in their locations, facilitating engagement in their subgroups. This system though, became quickly too heavy of a burden as Facebook did not provide resources or tools for a Group owner to effectively manage multiple subgroups like this, and again, I turned to hours and hours of research to attempt to find something that would better suit my energy/effort as well as the forward growth and long term sustenance of the community.
It takes actual humans to organize a community, whether that’s to schedule gatherings or events, or to organize dialogue and conversation. It takes effort and energy to help to guide and encourage engagement, and facilitate the growth and expansion of our talents, minds and opportunities. In addition to human beings, it also takes a robust software and platform that allows us human beings to work smarter, not harder. The struggle to find something that would respect and honor the massive needs of our community – for future growth, and to welcome innovation – was growing larger than life and became a frustration.
In addition to humans and software, it also takes TIME. I have been a full-time Realtor in Northern Virginia since 2014 and put a lot of energy and effort into it. I adore my clients and our tagline is “Community Chasers, not Commission Chasers.” I realized earlier this year that I was no longer able to devote the right amount of time and energy to both my real estate clients AND to the I Am A Triangle community. I made the decision to intentionally create a process by which I can act as a consultant to my real estate team, and train new agents, but step way back from the daily interaction with the real estate industry and instead give all of that energy and focus to I Am A Triangle.
Fast forward to April of this year while listening to a podcast with Tara Gentile on the power of meaningful communities. Gina Bianchini was launching her new community platform, called Mighty Networks, and as I listened to her, I realized she had built the very thing I had wanted for our community but couldn’t afford to put out into the world. To hear that podcast, click The Power of Dedicated Social Networks.
The people who don’t already know each other is the next chapter in how the world is going to create new relationships and a better future. The reality is that it doesn’t take a lot of people to make you feel like you’re in it together. At the same time, being in it together should be able to scale to larger numbers. Where the real magic and power comes from is from people who have shared interests being able to connect and share in many, multiple ways.
– Gina Bianchini
Gina went on to say, “The Facebook newsfeed was invented to allow you to consume updates from people you know. It was a phenomenal way to stay connected to the people that were important to you based on your life. It is NOT built for meeting new people who share a deep interest and are people you WANT to meet because they will help you grow or expand your horizons or because they share a life circumstance like moving your family on repeat around the world. What’s needed in networks like these is to support finding, meeting and breaking the ice, it’s not a newsfeed whizzing by you that gives no context to what you actually need.”
I concur! To me, Facebook is like a speed train going from point A to point B — with the Facebook engineers at the helm holding all of the controls — but it doesn’t stop along the way to let anyone else on the train. We need an experience like a HoHo Bus!
I’ve been asked why on earth would I intentionally “mess with” an audience of 16,000 people when I’ve worked so hard to build a very meaningful community over the span of four years. I’ve been admonished that I will end up breaking up a community and that I will likely lose members because of this vision and decision to migrate our community to a platform that can better support our needs. I’ve been told that I am “going small” and perhaps limiting our community to those who are willing to leave Facebook.
Let me be completely honest. Facebook IS making some attempts towards streamlining the task of moderating (the “admin” duties) a large group on their platform. They jumped to attention in May of this year and have made quick moves towards some positive changes – Mark Zuckerburg has gone so far as to change the mission statement for Facebook as it relates to large communities using his platform. As I discuss in more detail in our FAQs, many of those changes continue to benefit Facebook’s bottom line and their advertising game, but I wanted to at least acknowledge that there are some efforts being made – but for our community, it’s a ‘day late and a dollar short’. The Mighty Networks platform is ready now, they have listened to the needs of those at the helm of the movements, and our community is busting at the seams. In order for us to continue to deliver value and make strides towards powerful impact, the answers that I began seeking over 12 months ago all lie in the Mighty Networks platform.
Our community is changing the world that we live in. I am a firm believer in that, and I also strongly believe in the collective power of our community to continue changing the world in the future. Our members have the willpower, the guts, the talent and the support to do big things and impact future generations.
Changing the world is always disruptive. – Rachel Gutter
The value of our community and network becomes MORE and more valuable, the more intentional we are about how we steward the community. That is no longer possible on Facebook. The more people we gain in our community on Facebook, the more diluted your experience becomes as a member, and the more difficult it becomes to manage the safe corner of the Internet that our members are accustomed to. For more information about the details of the migration, the future of the I Am A Triangle movement, it’s new platform and why we’re leaving Facebook (and the future of Groups on Facebook) please read here: I Am A Triangle FAQ.
When you build strong communities that have at their core a shared mission or interest, what comes out of that can be simply magical. – Gina Bianchini
To the I Am A Triangle community, you are simply magical.
I am thankful that you’ve been along for this journey and am massively impressed by your beautiful stories, your amazing experiences and your willingness to come along for the ride. I am excited for my vision for this community to come to fruition with the next steps of this adventure!
We’ll be discussing the future of our community and I Am A Triangle “2.0” over in our new community home, but it will include philanthropy, better ways to connect, the ability for our children and older members of our immediate families to be supported, a one-of-a-kind relocation professional directory with realtors and agents who actually put the family first, a platform to provide amazing collaboration opportunities for those creating wonderful resources, and much, much more.
To join, visit: I Am A Triangle on the new community platform and request an invite!
Cheers to being a part of a global community where everyone belongs,
∆ – Naomi Hattaway