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Gathering Globally in Virtual Times: Creating a Digital Community

Most of us are cyborgs

Plugged into our devices as texts connect us across geography, and video calls transcend time zones. Yet, even with our ease in a tech-infused world, the move to remote and virtual working communities in the midst of COVID-19 has felt shocking.

This is especially true for communities whose primary means of connecting is gathering physically in meatspace (I use this cyberpunk description in place of “physical” as one of our Venture Café speakers, Laura McGrane, on our first virtual Thursday Gathering challenged us to think about the physicality of virtual space) like Venture Café Philadelphia. Contributing to this shock is the precarity of our collective state and disruption of routines. As a community, we all need to hold space to hear the concerns and perspectives of those most deeply affected.

Part of our work, too, is continuing to gather.

On March 5th, Venture Café Philadelphia went fully virtual to limit potential exposure and spread of the COVID-19 virus. For a community so deeply tied to in-person experiences, this move challenged how we define connection. We have had to reimagine –or rather translate—our core practices into new platforms and opportunities to build community. For example, how do we re-engineer the serendipitous collisions that often occur in our Café space? (Hint: come check out #VCvirtualJawn to find out.) But this is what we do: we innovate and pivot to embrace possibility, especially in difficult times.

With fully virtual Cafes in the midst of COVID-19, we now have the opportunity to create more shared experiences here in Philadelphia and with all our world partners

Jen Rajchel

As a Venture Café global network, we have, and will continue, to create shared experiences across the globe. In Philadelphia, we had the fortune of welcoming representatives from each of the other eleven Venture Cafés in October 2019. Even then, we recognized the power of the collective and the magic of convening across geographies, time zones, and perspectives. With fully virtual Cafes in the midst of COVID-19, we now have the opportunity to create more shared experiences here in Philadelphia and with all our world partners in a new (to the network) medium—the virtual space. For example, we have a Life Sciences investor panel this week (03/19) that includes investors from Philadelphia, Miami, and Providence. We also are collaborating to power a global networking space on Thursdays so attendees can connect with one another from around the world.

Equally important, we are committed to deepening a connected local ecosystem via digital platforms. We have been newly reminded of how critical multi-platform approaches are for inclusion. We know that access is foundational to connection, and we are always challenging ourselves to do better. As we look towards upcoming Venture Café jawns now and post- COVID-19, we will do so in hybrid mediums with physical and virtual sessions that work for all of us. For that, this physical isolation is the challenge that will make us better.

What will this look like? That’s for us to figure out together.

Want to learn more about how we’ve transitioned Venture Café community and content to a virtual space?

Have best practices to share? Join us for a session at #VCvirtualJawn next Thursday, March 26th.