Out of the Garden and Into the Cambia Grove
*Blog Image: Oswald West State Park, OR - Photo by Megan Haas
Editor's Note: Cambia Grove honors our role as a platform for the innovation community to amplify their perspectives on topics applicable to the larger health care ecosystem. This guest post from Megan Haas, Founder of Kinnected, reflects upon the past year and connections made via the Cambia Grove Membership.
The quality of our communities reflects the quality of our lives.
The path of a solo entrepreneur can be an isolating one. As when living alone by the sea without company except a wayward seal, (yes, I am speaking from personal experience) it’s helpful to possess an inner nature that thrives in seclusion.
When the seeds in the ground begin to travel upwards, they don't know where they're going; yet somehow, they know they'll get there. Likewise, while feeling your way through the dark, you must throw off the weight of doubt. With luck, every morning brings joy and the knowledge that you're innovating towards a greater good.
When the moment comes to anchor invention into the facets of society, collaboratively and culturally, it's as important a process as transplanting a seedling into the right soil. Many entrepreneurs don't give themselves time to value this moment, instead accelerating into rounds of funding, pitching, and bending their innovation into acceptable marketplace mentalities.
Another choice would be to view this moment as a doorway. A chance to take a breath, survey the landscape, and seek the warmth of discourse and community. This rationale, however, doesn't conform with the predominant culture of entrepreneurism, which favors the destination over the journey. This forceful approach has resulted in a business environment where change has been stalled by systems that fail to nurture and nourish; by structures that stigmatize ways of being in the world that fall outside normative values; and by competing interests that privilege profits over impact.
Finding a welcoming community for innovators that nurtures slow companies supportively, and healthily, without continual judging, prodding, and poking at the bottom line, is like stumbling into an oasis.
Kinnected spent 15 years feeling its way through the dark. The company was conceived as an antidote to a future zeitgeist; one where fast-propagating technology would deform our global society, and a misinformed, vulnerable world would force us into new paradigms—both for online community culture and the better health of our human behavior. I formally started the company in 2017, and by autumn 2018, I had a working demo that expressed Kinnected's mission to offer a free and diverse public health community to nurture and support all people and health professionals equitably. It was time for cultural expansion, good conversation and better knowledge about predominant health systems.
I had no idea where I could balance and invest in these essential aspects and values. But according to Rumi 'what you seek is seeking you,' and in Feb 2019 the oasis found me, when Cambia Grove Member, Rachel Gerson suggested we meet at her 'think tank' downtown for a conversation.
It was such an unexpected and generous occurence of synergy that it still feels slightly miraculous.
Symbiosis at Cambia Grove
It took a year to discern the scope of Cambia Grove. I spent time observing from the sidelines, aware that my work travels upwards from an underground sensibility, organically moving towards a more general audience; one that is longing for change. I sensed that Cambia Grove's community was coming from the opposite direction and traveling downwards, striving towards the roots of innovation. I've spent time in those roots, and they've taught me that community is a dimension of the natural world. Different forces grow it, shape it, and sway it, with everything interconnected as a means towards evolving and surviving.
So, with little to no experience in mainstream healthcare systems or policy, it was that first year at Cambia Grove that I gained the time, patience and opportunities to connect with others. These connections have led me to better understand and learn the practices and ethos of innovators across the health spectrum.
Bumping into fellow entrepreneurs like Sue Trace, who I bonded with over coffee one day at the downtown workspace, expanded my viewpoint considerably. Sue shared her trajectory with me from nurse to recruiter, to innovator. She opened my eyes to how new nurses struggle to remain emotionally positive despite the relentless burnout and unwell emotional environments in which many practitioners work. Sue's humane strategies to build resilience and wellbeing into these environments were poignant and practical. Her story reverberated through the layers of Kinnected's developing features, inspiring me to think and rethink how to bring more vitality and clearer direction into the features for supporting practitioner self-health and connection. In hindsight, this was invaluable preparation when, less than a year later, COVID began to challenge the health and humanity of health professionals beyond belief.
In my second year as a member, COVID hit, and Cambia Grove went remote. Thanks to the warmth engendered by Nick Jackal, Maura Little and the team, our online community sparked with a new vulnerability and perceptiveness.
When it was time to make some important strides with Kinnected, Cambia Grove's symbiosis guided me to members Stephanie Hillman and Suzanne Morrissey. Our work together has brought boundless meaning to my year. Stephanie's remarkable agility has synthesized and translated my work in community development to audiences that speak more general health languages. Her empathy and knowledge continue to guide Kinnected across multidisciplinary bridges.
Suzanne's ability to design compassionate, human-centered studies around people's stories and experiences perfectly juxtaposed with Kinnected's bottom line of absolute transparency and has laid an ethical pathway for the company to work with organizations to engage their practitioners and patients around better self-health advocacy and wellness solutions. As a medical anthropologist, Suzanne's understanding of the cultural determinants that span across health communities has been a missing link, connecting Kinnected to a higher health conversation.
Cultivating connection into 2021
That higher conversation is paramount. This year, we've seen how other countries develop empathy, progress, and security in the face of our global pandemic breakdown.
My hope for 2021 is that those who are tired, disillusioned, hurting, or feeling stuck in life's waiting room will seek out community, bringing light to conversations, and helping each other blossom into a sense of trust, and self-reliance. It will take some time to grapple with what we've been through in this last year, but we can begin by clearing out the old growth and planting new seeds.
“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.” – Mary Oliver
About Megan Haas
Megan Haas lives in Seattle, WA and is a long-time strategist and founder focused on the social and emotional importance of connecting community with business. As co-founder of the Utilikilts Co., she helped develop the company from a visionary phase to becoming the largest kilt company in the world, while spearheading its award-winning volunteer program along the way. As founder of Kinnected.org, Megan is developing a free community model for global health that nurtures and supports all people and health professionals. Megan also consults with companies, worldwide, helping them expand into meaningful relationships with their customer communities. She writes about health, community culture, and technology on Medium.
*The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Cambia, Cambia Grove, or any other entity or organization.*