Kathleen Hamilton, Partnerships & Programmes Director at Force of Nature, weighs in on her lifelong love of community-building, and how being a ‘third-culture kid’ is her community superpower
Kathleen: "I’ve been a community builder for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family moved around a lot, and I learnt quickly that if I wanted to make friends I could bring people together around activities and shared interests.
During high-school and university I organized community events around art and social justice issues, but I had no idea these skills would become a core part of my career.
After university in the US I found my way to Burning Man - one of the most extensive modern experiments in community building. I started volunteering for their communications team, and saw the transformational possibilities of community when rallied together around shared principles.
After Burning Man, I worked in ed-tech for 4 years, starting in a communications role. I moved quickly into community management when I heard the stories of community members who were so enthusiastic about the company vision but weren’t sure how they could be a part of building it. I built a case for having a community focus in the company which led to me becoming the head of community, and eventually the head of product - closing the loop between what our community needed and what we were building.
All of this to say: community has always been such an important part of my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities it’s brought to me in my career. It’s a gift to get to engage with people around the world with shared values. Now, I do this as a director of a youth non-profit - and I expect I’ll continue to do it in multiple more lifetimes."
K: "I’m a third-culture kid, which is a term used to describe people who were raised in a culture other than their parents', and also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years. I grew up across 3 continents, and that meant a great deal of ‘chameleoning’ growing up.
I spent time learning about others with genuine curiosity so that I could better relate to them - and I think these interpersonal skills have made me a great community pro!
No matter the situation, I’m excited to get to know people and genuinely connect with them, and bridge cultural differences."
K: "The best career mistake I’ve ever made has to be putting my hand up to work with software engineers. This mistake led me to go from head of community to head of product at my last company - which taught me so much about how community can be a part of a company-wide product strategy and how to communicate about community in order to get buy-in (from the CEO all the way to project managers, designers and developers)."
K: "I’m blanking on this one because it feels like I’ve learnt so much in the past few years! I think I wish I’d known that it could be my career - that it would become such an accelerant for businesses. Maybe I could have had more faith in my own convictions early on - but I’m happy where I’ve ended up regardless."
K: "My hope for the future of community is that we go beyond just commodifying community and into seeing it as the root of everything. It would be a full circle moment - where we come away from the individualism that has isolated us and move back into collectivism.
We see this already through the power of grassroots activism, and mutual aid, but I’d love to see our economic system shift as well."