Third Place is a social networking, learning and co-working group I founded in September 2013 for anyone interested in learning regardless of the industry or profession they are from. There are Third Place events in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Adelaide and there’s a bit of an interesting story about how the idea came about.
In 2013 I had travelled to the UK, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on a wonderful and unforgettable holiday with my husband (those who followed my personal blog read first hand how I fell in love with these countries, their landscape and people). We ended up meeting my personal learning network (PLN) in London over lunch and which later became after work drinks. I wrote about it in my blog post: Sometimes You Just Need to Meet Your PLN Face-to-Face.
The meeting made such an impression on me because here was a group of people whom I had been conversing with via social media and when I met them in person, they were like seeing a friend in person for the first time. We cut through the awkwardness and the trivialities of small talk and went straight into continuing our conversations we had online. The personal contact revealed more of their true character, their generosity and spirit in sharing, participating, contributing to the discussion.
When I came back home, I participated in a tweet chat where Paul Signorelli (@PaulSignorelli) had alerted me to a book about community building called The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenberg who mentioned the concept of “Third Place“.
Wikipedia says, “Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs.”
Within 10 minutes of learning about this book, I had gone into Meetup and set up the group name and started promoting the first event via Twitter. I’d be lying if I said that there was a ‘plan’ or a structure or a ‘vision’ of what I had in mind for the group. I didn’t. I simply wanted to replicate the “feel good feelings” of catching up with friends, learning about what everyone is working on, learning, connecting with and simply having a laugh.
All I wanted is informality, agility, flexibility – and at no cost to the members. A gathering of people who shared a genuine interest in learning with each other, through each other in an informal, mutually respective, open environment where they chose how it became their “third place” – whether it’s at a cafe, a co-working space, a library, at a park, wherever.
It was never about making Third Place into my own business because it was also, my “third place”.
Last night, the sense of spirit was the same as what I had felt when I had gone to the UK. A few people expressed to me that they met people whom they had been following on Twitter in person and how valuable the face-to-face connection was. Many of the participants had been attending a Learning Conference in Melbourne so we had our interstate guests who joined us and it was like a gathering of friends (and some new friends!).
Many people think that ‘social’ is about the technology. It’s not. It’s actually about our ‘humanness’ – about doing what comes natural to us. The tools simply allow us to connect with a greater network of people who bring to us diverse ideas and whom we can learn and share stories with.
What’s next for Third Place?
As well as some mixed- industry visits (stand by for a tour of the Building Leadership Simulation Centre later this year), I’d love to expand the idea of Third Place into my local community. As more people become freelancers or work from home, this concept is going to come to the fore. I have some ideas floating around my head about how to approach two of my local councils in my area and local libraries and cafes to support the idea of a “Third Place in the ‘Burbs” but right now, they are simply “half-baked ideas” that are slowly gnawing away at me to start exploring.
But one step at a time…
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) February 17, 2015