I recently worked as an experience design consultant with Other People Movement (OPM). OPM is a company that applies principles from positive psychology to address loneliness by convening small, diverse groups of strangers to connect deeply with one another. OPM offers Circles, which are facilitated online gatherings that provide tools for people to see and hear one another as their whole selves, and Collectives, which are months-long group memberships of the same people who regularly meet in Circles. I first came to OPM as a member of a 3-month Collective pilot, and found each experience to be moving and nourishing.
OPM founder Sophia knew of my background in applied positive psychology, and therefore my enthusiasm for experiences that satisfy our human need to connect meaningfully and authentically with other people. I also shared my impressions of how successful Circles were from an experience design perspective with her once my first 3-month Collective concluded. It was clear to me that the structure of Circles was already working well, and Sophia is a masterful facilitator. But Sophia knew that even more could be done, and asked for my help in taking OPM to the next level.
As powerful as Circles are, Sophia saw potential for the Collective experience to be much more than that: to fine-tune other aspects of the Circle experience apart from the main agenda, and to build a more engaging way for Collective members to connect with one another during the two weeks between Circles. And I couldn’t have agreed more! I was excited to work on these creative problems which allowed me to directly apply my passions for positive psychology and experience design that brings people together.
I helped Sophia identify the core experience goals for the improvements she wanted to make, brainstorm creative solutions towards those goals, and decide on some changes to try out and eventually iterate upon. The biggest change we made was designing a new structure for Collective members to interact with each other and deepen their bonds outside of Circle, which we named the Clubhouse. (This was before everyone was talking about the social app of that name!) As the Clubhouse design evolved, I gave feedback and made suggestions based on gathering design, experience design, psychology, as well as my experience with social technology platforms and as a previous OPM Collective member—all while making sure we were supporting our core experience goals.
I loved the new design we came up with, so I decided to join the next Collective. I am now getting to experience the results of our work personally as a member of this Collective, which just decided to continue on for a full year together. Our Collective has become an important source of social wellness for me, especially while facing the challenges and isolation of pandemic life. It’s been both fascinating as a designer and meaningful as a member to see how this unique experience has helped me forged new bonds and add a new dimension to my life.