On this week’s episode of Campfire, Jackson is joined by the four founders of the Co-Creation Castle, Michael Wedd, Micky Wolf, Shadman Uddin (@ShadmanMUddin), and Amy Jo (Josie) Weaver (@amyjo_weaver). The CCC in San Diego was an experimental co-living cohort designed for those who wanted to build, co-create, and live vulnerably with other passionate people.
After starving for social interaction for a year, four Venture for America alums decided to host an experimental in person gathering of creatives and entrepreneurs in San Diego. They devised coronavirus protocols, organized teams to manage household tasks, and worked together to create art. Over the course of 5 weeks the Co-Creation Castle cohort members managed to start companies and forge life-long friendships. Tune in to hear how they managed the logistics, built community during a time devoid of it, and created a space for vulnerability and co-creation to thrive.
Campfire is brought to you by Cabin - a network of coliving neighborhoods for nature-loving creators and remote workers. You can learn more at the following links:
Read more urbanist content at The Future of Living Newsletter
Hosted by @JacksonSteger
Sound Engineering by @Prodcolin
Videos and Clips by @McdonnellCallum
Produced + Distributed by @PhilippeIze
Learn more about the future of the Co-Creation C_______: https://bit.ly/ccc-social-fabric
[00:00:00] Jackson Steger: Hi everyone. This is Jackson Steger and you're listening to Season 2 of Campfire. Let's get it.
[00:00:09] We have four guests today, which is pretty wild. I have never hosted more than two guests at a time. And to be honest, I don't think I've even heard a podcast with that many guests, maybe a panel. So, this is definitely an experiment, I think a worthwhile one, but definitely let us know what you think. You can DM me on Twitter, as always, @JacksonSteger.
[00:00:31] My guests today are the founders of the Co-Creation Castle, a five-week coliving experience that happened in San Diego in January of 2021, admittedly, during the height of the COVID Pandemic. It was an experiment in trust, in vulnerability, creativity, and experiential coliving. Folks who came to the experience founded new companies, started new relationships, made lifelong friends, and much more.
[00:00:57] The project's founders, Mike Wedd, Amy Joe Weaver, Shadman Uddin, and Micky Wolf, started working together after we all met, along with 180 others, at Venture for America's training camp. VFA is a post-grad fellowship for those who want to learn how to build a business while making an impact in an emerging U.S. city for two years by working at a startup.
[00:01:18] Training camp was another five-week period where we learned both hard skills, like web design and market sizing, as well as soft skills, pertaining to leadership and communication. Those four took what they learned and started working together on experiential projects, in which I was a happy participant. And then those projects were shuttered when COVID hit. The Co-Creation Castle was their first event back in person.
[00:01:43] As always, this season of Campfire seeks to understand how to build new cities. Each week we are joined by experts and practitioners from different startup cities and coliving networks who will share the stories and lessons that they have learned from experimenting with radical new models of living.
[00:01:58] A reminder, Cabin's neighborhoods are now open for coliving. If you're interested in month-to-month coliving at beautiful locations with nature out the front door, high speed internet, and actual campfires, you can join the waitlist today by visiting www.cabin.city. Also, another reminder, if you introduce us to a city builder and we book them on this podcast, we will reward you with some Cabin token. All right. Onto the episode. It was a super fun one to record, and I hope it's a fun one to listen to as well. Cheers.
[00:02:29] Welcome to Campfire. I'm here with Michael Wedd, Micky Wolf, Shadman Uddin, welcome back Shadman, and AJ Weaver/ Josephine/Amy Joe. AJ, what are we calling you for today's episode?
[00:02:43] Amy Jo Weaver: We can go with Josie for now.
[00:02:44] Jackson Steger: Okay, Josie. What did Micky say, a girl has many names.
[00:02:49] Micky Wolf: Definitely.
[00:02:50] Jackson Steger: So, before we talk about CCC, just for listeners, this is a bit different of an episode. A) It’s way more guests than we've ever had; and B) they're also all some of my closest friends. I've lived with all of them. How did we meet? And I'll leave this one open. Who wants to talk about training camp?
[00:03:07] Shadman Uddin: So, we all participated in a fellowship program for budding emerging entrepreneurs, and part of that fellowship program was actually collecting over 150 individuals from across the country, and across the world actually, into this bootcamp for four and a half weeks at Wayne State, Detroit, Michigan. And essentially, during the day our experience was filled with sessions from McKinsey on learning how to use Excel, learning how to use The Lean Startup methodology, how to go to market. Then the evenings, man, oh man, in the evenings, we had some great times, great parties, social experiences, getting to know each other, all of the fun and debauchery that's involved with people who had just graduated from college, but also fresh with super exciting ideas that they wanted to share.
[00:03:54] And then part of that experience was to help future founders find one another. And that's actually one of the ways that this group came together. It was out of a lot of different conversations that came out of training camp, as well as some great friendships, like all the ones on this call right now too.
[00:04:08] Amy Jo Weaver: Although I think it's important to point out that a lot of us weren't actually friends at training camp. Like I think I talked to Jackson maybe one or two times. There's maybe some conflict at times. Shadman, you and I weren't really friends. It was kind of Micky who I think was individually friends with all of us and really was a lot of the glue that kept the relationships going, So I think it's big shoutout to Micky for kind of being that person that initially brought each of these people here together, I think.
[00:04:35] Jackson Steger: Were there any conversations at training camp or experiences maybe involving paint that were particularly memorable, that you guys had about each other, that you noticed some sort of trait where you were impressed by that individual and was part of why you were excited to work about that person later when we did all of the San Diego stuff?
[00:04:57] Micky Wolf: I feel like one of the first con, not the first, but definitely a bonding conversation for Shadman and I was this first conversation about the friendship spectrum where we were talking about, what if you envisioned a world where every single person, from your next door neighbor to Barack Obama, was just some place on your friendship spectrum, and you could eventually maybe become friends with them with some sort of circumstance that would happen.
[00:05:22] And yeah, as Jackson is alluding to, there was an experience where basically I had done a bet to see who could be vegan for a longer period of time with one of our other VFA friends. I lost the bet. And unfortunately, as the loser of that bet, I needed to pose nude for an art class. And spent a year. Mike and I lived in Baltimore at the time. I did not pose for that entire year. But towards the Venture for America reunion, towards our one-year training camp reunion, people were like, hey, you're not ethical. You don't follow through on your word. You made this bet. You didn't follow through.
[00:06:56] And so, I ended up following through on the bet in a very vulnerable situation that did lead to us kind of – Shadman and I had worked on a project for a year. That was around like community meal prep and like preparing building community around food and culture, which was actually a big part of the CCC. Mike and I were actually roommates at the time, that we came back for this reunion. And this unique event definitely led to some close friendships being formed. And also just like us seeing the power of vulnerable space to curate deeper bonds, to build better friendships, like when people were vulnerable, you could see people opened up more, they trusted each other more, they felt more like they belonged, and that was a powerful insight for sure.
[00:06:38] Jackson Steger: Awesome.
[00:06:39] Michael Wedd: Yeah, just one thing to add to that. I think it was maybe in that whole experience that we, or at least I first noticed, hey, people are actually really looking for spaces like this. There were dozens of people who were and definitely wanted to come or were really interested in the idea, and then I think it was something like 30 people came to that storied painting session. And so, we just noticed like, hey, this is really something people are looking for, is this kind of vulnerable connection space to make friends and share experiences and values.
[00:07:10] Jackson Steger: So, with all of that as background, Micky, I think we're going to start with you. What was CCC San Diego?
[00:07:18] Micky Wolf: Yeah. I would say CCC San Diego was a culmination of – actually, in the middle of COVID, we had basically done, after that initial exposed event, we gathered people in different kind of unique gatherings meant to spark deeper connection and explore life's important questions, spirituality, dating, goals, as some examples. And then for a year we basically didn't gather people. We had social distance exposed, which was like a virtual event. But we were thinking about what could we do to actually bring people together. And we had seen some of these like coliving homes popping up, kind of these influencer castles or whatever, hacker houses that people were doing. And we’re like that…
[00:08:01] Amy Jo Weaver: Hype houses.
[00:08:02] Micky Wolf: Hype houses. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:08:04] Amy Jo Weaver: Which we were retroactively called.
[00:08:06] Michael Wedd: Didn't Andrew Yang eventually like put this on his presidential platform? Like not us, to be clear, not us specifically, but we were like, wait, Andrew Yang, the Founder of Venture for America, and now a presidential candidate, is saying that these kinds of hype houses in cities are like the way to go. And we were like, what?
[00:08:22] Amy Jo Weaver: It was part of the plan. He planted the seeds early on.
[00:08:27] Michael Wedd: But anyways, continue, Micky. Sorry.
[00:08:29] Micky Wolf: Oh. No. No, no, no. I love commentary to build on. And yeah, I think CCC San Diego was an opportunity, a unique moment in time that we knew was unique in the moment, but I think looking back especially was unique, that just a lot of people were stuck at home looking to connect at a deeper level, really isolated from one another, and we said, if we could bring people together safely in COVID to spark deeper connection and like flourish as individuals was the goal of what we were trying to do there.
[00:08:58] Jackson Steger: What's the acronym, Shadman? What’s CCC?
[00:09:01] Shadman Uddin: So, it actually stands for Co-Creation C, and we left the third one intentionally open because we wanted to invite our community to actually co-create that last C with us.
[00:09:12] Jackson Steger: And trying to just help the audience understand the actual physical property. At times, we called it The Co-Creation Castle, The Co-Creation Compound, The Co-Creation Cabin. Could someone please describe that month that we did in San Diego maybe in 10 words…
[00:09:28] Amy Jo Weaver: It’s a different thing to say what it was meant to be versus what it turned into because I think there was so much planning that went into it. We’re even using Harvard's human flourishing domains to organize how people would cooperate together in these different departments, right? So, we had the stability team, and we had the purpose team. And all these things that they did have legs and they did exist in theory, but then there was so much that, to Shadman’s earlier point, the co-creation aspect, that there's so much that it just became that we never even envisioned, right? Folks leading different activities and groups and forming friendships and doing activities. And really the biggest offshoot was these extension packs. So, we had a whole thing that happened in San Diego and then folks continued to branch off of that and form really close friendships and excursions beyond just that first house.
[00:10:17] Jackson Steger: Yes, I definitely want to talk about extension mentalities. Mike and I are here together in Hawaii, still extending. And I want to talk about the flourishing domains as well. But first, just grounding people in this one-month coliving experience that we had. Mike, could you help us understand the space that we were working with and the number of people coming?
[00:10:37] Michael Wedd: Sure, yeah. Yeah. So, it was a really large sort of multi-building house in Barrio Logan in San Diego, and there was a kind of bald perimeter to the building. And then inside this property there was like, what we called the Bunker, which was this tower, almost like a tree house. There was what we called the Yunak, which was this other kind of tower on the other side there. What did we eventually call the house?
[00:11:03] Amy Jo Weaver: The Chic House.
[00:11:05] Michael Wedd: That's right. There was this little Chic House with a couple shared rooms. I guess it's still giving people a sense of the space. There was this kind of rat, that we like found some rats in the property at one point, and then we called the Ratuation, I think, or something. And we had to talk to the owner and kind of try to get things (00:11:22) get rid of these rats. There was this kind of whole debacle. All is well that ends well but…
[00:11:27] Then there was the main house, and the main house was just a huge high-ceiling house that had clearly been kind of retrofit for big groups of people, but maybe not as big as ours, to be fair. And definitely the plumbing at times was creaking along, the WiFi was not commercial grade. And at one point, what, like 30, 35 people trying to use this router, that was just 30, what was it?
[00:11:52] Micky Wolf: 26 maybe. We maxed out too, yeah.
[00:11:53] Michael Wedd: I sort of started, well, just pummeling this WiFi. And so, it was a large space with lots of buildings, but we were like just above its intended capacity for sure. There’s maybe 20 something beds, how many beds?
[00:12:06] Micky Wolf: The place was definitely meant for a bachelor party type housing of like a short weekend, and we were converting it into a full coliving house with people like booking different rooms for their calls during the day and leading the afternoon activities and the morning meditations on the roof, and the quiet hours that were supposed to be instituted at the end of the day.
[00:12:27] Amy Jo Weaver: It truly felt like its own universe, right? Especially with all the different names of the rooms and spaces. And it truly was like you went into this bunker, into this COVID bunker underground universe, and we had our own rules and our own, yeah, our own spaces. And then you emerge into the San Diego streets, which was also part of our experience too, right? The tacos and burritos and the parks and San Diego proper and the beaches. But once we entered the house, it was its own world.
[00:12:56] Jackson Steger: Yeah. I want to talk about the COVID piece of this. I think that's part of why it was so unique because this happened in January/February of 2021, where the vaccine had just been approved for doctors, but we as, regular people, had no chance of getting it at the time and actually maybe still the cases were the highest that they ever were. Not that we had planned it that way. We had planned like in October and November when we thought maybe that cases were on the way down and then they were spiking over the holidays.
[00:13:29] So, first, just from the preparation standpoint, AJ mentioned these five flourishing domains, which we'll talk about more in a second. But one of them had to do with health. And I think that none of us, none of you all were going to let this house happen unless we took like serious approaches to harm reduction and spread prevention. So, I'll leave it open-ended in terms of who wants to jump in, but who wants to talk about just the preparations we made for COVID specifically?
[00:13:54] Shadman Uddin: Yeah, so one of my roles as the experience was getting launched was how do we actually make this a COVID-safe experience. Obviously, a lot of people were flying in from across the country into the house, and that's really a high-risk scenario, especially considering, as you mentioned, just how the severity of COVID at that point. And honestly, we even had some people who canceled last minute because either they had been exposed to COVID or even got COVID. And it was really important for us to establish that protocol really upfront of saying, hey, even if there's any risk of exposure, we really wouldn't prefer you not to come.
[00:14:31] Broadly, what we ended up making was a harm reduction approach to COVID testing and safety. So essentially I spoke with one of my friends whose parents worked at the CDC at the time, and essentially we just got down and made a list of precautions. So, if you were coming to the CCC, you would first need to send over your COVID test three days prior to your flight date to one of the liaisons on the health team. And the intention was, after you took your COVID test, you would essentially just stay at your home before you ended up taking that flight. Thankfully, because of the severity of COVID at that time, most people adhered to that rule. Then as soon as you came and flew into San Diego, we then ask you to actually quarantine for five days to make sure that even if you picked something up along the way or something was missed after your PCR, we would be able to incubate and prevent that from actually spreading across the group.
[00:15:24] And so, those people who quarantined when they got there, they had to wear masks anytime they exited the room that they were staying. We made sure that people that flew in on the same day also stayed in the same rooms together. It was a pretty, as we talked about, there were two main compounds. The Chic House was essentially a container for the quarantine. And it was a great community building for the people who actually flew in at the same day and had to stay there and quarantine.
[00:15:47] And then what we did was we actually had a service where people could request free COVID tests to the site. And once you hit your fifth day of quarantine, you would test, and then you would then send over your test back to the lab to get it revealed. And one of the great traditions we actually ended up building out of this experience, you know, after your test went to the lab, the turnaround was actually one day, you would get your email, we would all wait around like a college admission day waiting to see what the result would be for your COVID test. Someone would open an email, and as soon as it said you were negative, everyone watched as you unveiled your mask around the group and welcomed you into the broader like COVID-free zone.
[00:16:26] And just some numbers for you, Jackson. We had 33 people come in and out of the San Diego home over the span of six weeks, and we had zero confirmed cases of COVID the entire experience while there, and we had zero cases of COVID after people flew back from CCC as well. So, I think we did a great job at really minimizing the harm and just making sure that people adhered to our COVID testing.
[00:16:50] Jackson Steger: Yeah, I think you all did a really good job.
[00:16:53] Shadman Uddin: I’ve got to say real quickly though, our guy, Jackson here, our host on the podcast, one of the ways he was trying to flourish during this time was create every day. So, he created some pretty awesome TikToks and videos. And I remember feeling very nervous that our COVID policy was going to blow up in front of us and we were going to be in New York Times article because Jackson was getting 30,000 views on his TikToks about how cool this house was, though he did also advertise our COVID policy. But it was a big debate.
[00:17:24] Michael Wedd: I was going to say, and yeah, to add on the very, very rigorous policy that Shadman outlined, we also did have various contingency plans if something had gone wrong. But think about it, and you have 33 times you're revealing that, taking off your mask on camera, everyone's around. At any one of those times, we could have entered like a multi-week lockdown quarantine. So, it was pretty pretty exciting, but also a pretty testament to the research done, you know, that everything went well.
[00:17:52] Amy Jo Weaver: Shout out to the health team. Superstars.
[00:17:54] Jackson Steger: Yes, health team worked hard.
[00:17:56] Amy Jo Weaver: Oh, thank you. [crosstalk]
[00:17:57] Michael Wedd: I’m embarrassed.
[00:17:54] Micky Wolf: Health team, there was some growing policies as the numbers of people picked up. Health team was having some intense meetings in the bunker, figuring out the plan.
[00:18:07] Shadman Uddin: We had to actually ask some people to change their flights because they had been exposed. We had to ask some people not to come. It wasn't just out of luck and good vibes. We had to make some seriously strategic choices even at the cost of potentially running the experience at a loss too, right? We really wanted to make sure we were COVID safe.
[00:18:26] Jackson Steger: One observation I remember having at the time is that a lot of the people who came were in one way or another one of our friends, but I don't think any of us knew every single person or even close to that coming, although I'm convinced Micky knows everybody. But I just felt that the COVID stuff in particular was this really interesting exercise in trust. It was like this trust fall into stranger's arms wearing masks because we didn't know who was going to be there and if they were going to lie about what they did on New Year's or how exposed they may have been on the flight. And so, I'm here right now with another resident, named Steven, who delayed his flight by a week because he was just nervous that he might have caught it. And a shout out to him for delaying like the gratification of, because for everyone else, it’s been 18 months since any of us had any genuine like social activity, and it took courage from some people to delay that even further.
[00:19:22] I also think the COVID stuff informed our day to day in a lot of ways. We didn't go to other places indoors. We only went to other outdoor spots. We had our groceries delivered. All the cooking and the food happened at the place, which we'll get into. But that's why the month was so unique, is because after that vaccine started rolling out, I think we all got vaccinated within six weeks of leaving San Diego, and it's just the isolation that created this really interesting pocket of people.
[00:19:50] And so with that, I want to, first Shadman, just can you share with us the flourishing domains that Josie mentioned earlier, what are those flourishing domains? And then I want to talk a little bit about how that structured the rest of our time in San Diego.
[00:20:03] Shadman Uddin: Yeah. So, as we mentioned, health team, we actually got the phrase of health and called it a team because that was one of Harvard's flourishing domains. So, just a quick summary of what Harvard's flourishing domains are. There is a center at Harvard, called The Center for Human Flourishing, and they essentially do rigorous quantitative and qualitative research around what components make up a flourishing lifestyle for the universal human. So, it's a pretty big task. And they've been able to outline five key domains that are contributive to the flourishing lifestyle, health being one of them, relationships being another, purpose being a third, citizenship being a fourth, and then fifth was intrinsic, meaning spirituality, was the fifth, or character essentially. Feel free to hop on if I missed one, you all.
[00:20:48] Amy Jo Weaver: Wasn’t there a stability one as well that was around finance?
[00:20:50] Shadman Uddin: Yes. Yes, that was the fifth. Yeah, the fifth one was about financial security essentially, and we ended up reframing that and just calling it stability. What we did was we wanted to not only have everyone in our house be a flourishing individual, we wanted to also say, we want this to be a flourishing home. We actually asked everyone during our onboarding calls for whenever people confirmed to be a part of the experience. We would then introduce them to the flourishing domains and say, hey, this is a co-creative experience. Do you want to join one of these flourishing teams and play a role in making a flourishing home essentially.
[00:21:23] And not only did people volunteer to join groups, we also identified some people who were super passionate about one domain over the other, right? We had an individual, Caroline, I'm not sure if we were supposed to name some of our members of the program, but Caroline really was very passionate about making sure that we were not extractive and appropriative and gentrifying the space that we were already a part of, and really went to full length as leader of the citizenship team to not only make sure we had healthy practices to support a respectful community inside but also outside of the home too. And so, we saw some great collaboration, great co-creation just through the formation of these flourishing teams.
[00:22:01] Jackson Steger: What is co-creating?
[00:22:03] Amy Jo Weaver: Great question, Jackson. Co-creating is about creating something together, and I think for us it was about creating boundaries to create and establishing initial purposes and values and shared understandings that from which could bloom these amazing relationships, creations, experiences, and communities off of those.
[00:22:28] Jackson Steger: Micky, how did that co-creation manifest in terms of sort of things that we did? What were some kind of activities that one might expect every day in the Co-Creation Castle after they wake up and there's group meditation, then what?
[00:22:44] Micky Wolf: Yeah. So, I definitely want to answer this question. But one thing I just also wanted to highlight before we leave the flourish teams category was just the importance of Shadman and Caroline leading the citizenship onboardings when people arrived in the home. I think especially if you're coming into a home that if you're a person of color, if you're a woman, and you're living with a bunch of new people, like that is a zone where there is serious opportunity for people to cause harm to one another, for people to overstep one another's boundaries. And I just thought that one of the things that was unique in making people feel more comfortable and like they belonged at the CCC was our zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, bigotry, racism, marginalization of variety of kinds, and pairing that with a culture of restorative practices, calling people in. There were different moments where people did cross the line with one another, and actually apologize to other people within the community, and I just think that was an important thing to note in the space that we were creating.
[00:23:48] Jackson Steger: Definitely. And then back to the other question. Co-creating, this idea of Yes-Anding other people's contributions, how did that manifest in terms of structured events that either one of you four would lead or you would find someone like Will Palmer or someone else to lead?
[00:24:06] Micky Wolf: Yeah, there's a whole variety of different activities. We would do these co-creative meditations where people would literally meditate together and pass the mic to one another by snapping three times, and then that made it known that you could jump in. There was a design thinking sprint that we led at a certain period. There were work-related sessions, like Mona led something on Figma and training people on how to use this design tool called Figma. A lot of jam sessions. Josie is, we've still not gotten Mike Wedd on the track yet, but…
[00:24:38] Amy Jo Weaver: Whoa, whoa, whoa!
[00:24:39] Michael Wedd: No, no, no. Josie, you did. Finally. Tell them.
[00:24:42] Amy Jo Weaver: We had an incredible recording session at my studio at Tenga, where we also mathematically devised a way of mapping out relationships through assigning people different notes. And then as people came together, they formed chords. It was amazing. I'll send you guys the track that we made.
[00:24:59] Micky Wolf: Finally got Mike Wedd on the track.
[00:25:01] Michael Wedd: And I just want to be clear that we really learned through that, that mathematical basis for relationships and actually good music are very different things. And we finally produced this, and we were like, this is just cacophony. This is not at all music. And then so the actual music came in when Josie took this mathematical jumble of chords and actually turned it into music. And I think it's actually pretty good though.
[00:25:24] Shadman Uddin: I think one of the things to also highlight about the co-creation aspect of it is we really believe that every single person that was coming into our experience had something to share that others could learn from when they were actually at the CCC. And we continued saying that message from orientation before they came, from onboarding when they got there. And then especially as the first couple of weeks, we really encouraged, Micky did a great job at this, at sitting down and talking with each person and being like, hey, what could you teach? What could you show? What could you share with the group? And I think one of the really amazing things that he did was he actually went ahead and coached every person that was showing some sort of interest into designing an experience or designing a program.
[00:26:05] So, it was not only this co-creative element of, oh hey, you can participate, but it also has really structured coaching and design process to make sure that people could take an idea and then bring it into the space. One of the most beautiful things that we learned about co-creation was that when someone was vulnerable enough to share themselves with the community that way, everyone would see them in a whole new light, and they would take on this new leadership mantle in the group.
[00:26:30] And I think everyone here could attest to this. It never felt like there's just one or two people running the show at CCC. I think as the week's gone on, it really felt like people had their own distinct roles that you knew who to turn to, when to ask for this sort of thing. And I think we haven't really discussed this yet, Jackson, and I think maybe you're going to this, but the beautiful thing is we actually created a really powerful community of people who didn't really know each other. After an 18-month period of isolation, we created a really powerful community that just, boom, connected. There were days when we were walking inside the CCC where there were people who had just met three days ago, laughing, sharing jokes, opening themselves up in really vulnerable ways, supporting each other. I still to this day, and I don't know if others can attest to this, I still to this day have never seen anything like what we saw at the CCC, of strangers coming in and just building a whole new social fabric right there. It was really special.
[00:27:33] Micky Wolf: Yeah. I think people literally on average entered with three close friends and left with 11 close friends. People still lived together over, you know, 18 months later in L.A., in Baltimore, in Austin, traveling together in Hawaii, travel to New Mexico, Pennsylvania. A lot of different things that have continued from that. And the sessions people co-created were pretty awesome. I was just reflecting on them more. There was the meals, of course, the Shabbat dinners, the South Asian meal night, the Middle Eastern Food Night, the Vietnamese spring rolls. There was the fitness classes. Jackson, the fitness trainer over here, led some pretty awesome fitness classes. The artistic explorations, Equus, which was a play that we read. People participated in the full three-hour play about this boy who falls in love with a horse, which was pretty interesting. The murder mystery party.
[00:28:24] Jackson Steger: There was a tech ethics, there was an MLK Day, there was Bronson launching his EP and the party that we had for him and for Polo’s that same night with the dancing. Tons of like awesome things.
[00:28:39] Micky Wolf: The inauguration, Biden inauguration, and like…
[00:28:41] Shadman Uddin: And every single thing that Micky and you just listed was led by a different person. That's what was crazy. We had 33 people, we had maybe 26 distinct events, and a new person was leading or co-leading each one of these things. It was really something cool.
[00:28:59] Michael Wedd: Yeah, and I think just some observations there. One of you mentioned this a moment ago. It was amazing to see people take on this mantle of leadership, people who maybe really hadn't ever had that opportunity at that scale before and leave the experience really seeming like kind of an emerging leader amongst their peers or values-driven leaders. So, that was really beautiful, to see that personal growth and community growth.
[00:29:21] Something else I wanted to say is we learned, I think, that co-creation isn't just free space for just doing what you want. It's not a blank canvas. Those onboarding sessions were really key, and it gave people just enough structure to avoid some of the maybe negative ways this could have gone, co-creation could have gone. But it really, like within a few days, people just got the culture. They just understood the values and how they were being implemented in this space. And so, I think it was really we learned that there was this delicate balance between too much structure, which limits creativity and stepping into leadership, but then also too little could have easily stepped into chaos.
[00:30:02] Jackson Steger: Yeah, I think there's something we said for building the container. This term, I've used on this podcast a few times, vibe scaling. But I think that the vibe was able to scale really well for two reasons, and I wonder if you guys have any others to add on top of this. The first was, like Mike just said, there were these structured onboarding calls before the CCC and then Shad and Caroline's welcome to the CCC sort of citizenship onboarding when you got there.
[00:30:27] But then also because of the COVID rule, there was this rolling arrival, where the first day was just Shad and Mike. And then JD and I arrived the next day. And then Caroline and Georgia the day after. And by the time that Micky and Onin arrive with their full face masks a few days in, I feel like the people were able to witness the vibe and then add to it, but there had been this ground setting from those early concentric circles that AJ just outlined.
[00:30:55] Shadman Uddin: I think that's actually what played a really strong role in the vibe scaling. We just started immediately creating traditions, immediately started creating rights for people to go through. And not only we created those traditions, we then invited others to layer on top of those traditions too, and I think that's what allowed it to scale because you have this shared notion of culture being built, but then you also, every time you come in, you feel like you're contributing to the culture. You have a concentric circle. You have a personal development activity. It's also something you're adding. So, I think that when you talk about the container, it's this piece of, yeah, the structured onboarding is orientation, but it's also allowing people to layer on top of the experience themselves. And then I think that's a really scalable activity.
[00:31:37] Amy Jo Weaver: Also, the ratio between, the mixture of folks who knew at least one other person pretty well and then had a few sort of second or third degree connections. And obviously there are some folks there that knew more folks than others, but everyone at least had one person, whether it was one of us, usually one of us, that they knew pretty well, and we were each sort of looking out for them to make sure, you know, if I invited one of my friends from college or one of my friends from high school, that I could make sure that they were okay and adjusting. So, there is all of this sort of micro groups and folks influencing our friends to make sure that they were all cohering and making new friends.
[00:32:13] Micky Wolf: There's also an intentionality behind when people showed up, people filled out an interest form about how they wanted to flourish or like what their kind of focuses were, how they aligned to these five kind of core values that we were looking for, or I think we called them qualities, that we were looking for in the community, and also just that culture when people were there. Yeah, definitely with a C, of course, not a Q. And while we were there, just people were intentional about making others feel included. People would talk to someone new that they hadn't met. People would create a culture of opt-in as well, that opt-in and opt-out. You don't have to participate in every single big group activity that was going on that I think made people feel independent even if they were in this belonging space.
[00:32:58] Living with Mike, I had to say like living with Mike before, I definitely improved a lot as a roommate, and I think there are just like nice, stable living things that Mike helped to make sure would actually exist within the house. Hey, we're going to keep this house clean. We're going to not just live in a place that makes people feel like, oh wow, I don't want to be here. And I think those things all contributed.
[00:33:19] Michael Wedd: Just to add onto that, we mentioned that the space we rented was, I think, most commonly used for frat parties. And without all of the intentionality you just spoke about, Micky, it's possible it could have gone that way, right? And we were in the middle of COVID, people had totally starved for social interaction, hadn't partied really ever in the past year plus, and it could have turned into that, but it really didn't. And I think that was the function of what you just said. Some of those structures, some of those, hey, we're actually roommates here even if there are 27 of us.
[00:33:50] Jackson Steger: I think that listeners have probably, without me having to ask it directly, gotten a sense of some of the success stories here. So, A) just the total lack of COVID; B) the fact that so many people after the CCC continued to be roommates or friends, the very month after, there was a group of 13 of us that went to Hawaii. Of course, before that even happened, there was a group that went to Joshua Tree. So, like extensions with this barometer of success because people just kept on extending, which I'll come back to if we have time. But I want to ask this question, what did you regret about the experience or what would you have maybe done differently? And again, I ask that with the caveat that we might cut pieces of this.
[00:34:31] Shadman Uddin: The thing is we did do it again. We tried doing it again actually. And so, I think the second experience was very different from the first experience. We did another CCC, we called it CCC Jim Thorpe, CCC Sprummer. It's got its names, and this took place in Pennsylvania in the Poconos mountains. And some of the things that happened was we struggled to recruit the same amount of people, same amount of demand, over to Jim Thorpe. We struggled to really in the same level of density of population in the house and density of experience. There was a slightly lower level of co-creation and ownership of the experience that I would say as well developed. In many ways it was very similar still too. A lot of people who came into CCC Sprummer had amazing relationships, still made new friends, are still in contact with those people to this day, and we were able to bring a lot of new people in.
[00:35:25] But I don't know it. It felt like a little more in and out than like contained. And maybe it was a nature of the vaccines had rolled out, but it was “vaccine summer”. So, you know, everyone was trying to do everything. That was the experience at the time. It was also in the mountains of Pennsylvania, which is not necessarily like the easiest and most accessible place to get to.
[00:35:47] So, there are some, you know, qualifying factors there that made it a different experience. For us, as a group, where we saw a lot of momentum, a lot of experience, and we honestly, we actually even had, it was a profitable experience for us as well. For CCC Sprummer, there was definitely an energy difference. It felt like our core team was shouldering a lot of the load as well for CCC Sprummer, and we took a pretty decent loss on the experience too that ended up affecting the overall trajectory of whether or not we were going to continue doing it too.
[00:36:18] Jackson Steger: Going back to success stories. The dinners I think are something worth chatting about.
[00:36:25] Mike, do you want to give a sense of how integral dinners at CCC San Diego were integral to the experience? And then how the ownership there worked, both from making the dinner piece but also the cleaning up?
[00:36:37] Michael Wedd: Yeah. I think one realization we all had was just reaffirming how much sharing food, cooking together, and cleaning together can be a bonding experience for people, and also a learning experience for people, because a lot of folks came in pretty recently out of college and maybe had been cooked for and cleaned for a lot in their earlier years. And this was really an opportunity for people to not only how to cook with others, how to share food with others, how to share their cultures through the food that they were co-creating on the menus, and how to be mutually accountable to the group because we had these, what we called color teams, for people to rotate the cleaning duties together and make sure no one was saddled cleaning up for 27 people. And the shopping runs and groceries were all organized in the group in this kind of systems we were prototyping.
[00:37:25] And I think maybe the most beautiful thing I thought was this co-chefing idea, where we paired more experienced chefs with people who were learning and wanted to get involved. And that really created some of these unique stories and couple hours together of just bonding over cooking. And it reminded me of this like giant family dinner every night, and it was just one of the greatest experiences of my life, I think so far.
[00:37:48] Micky Wolf: It was a really wild cooking experience. I was just reflecting back on, where I was for the very first time learning how to cook a Jewish brisket for a Shabbat dinner. And I'm like going between the two kitchens, like helping to set up the Shabbat dinner. Meanwhile, Addie, who had done two stick and poke tattoos before coming to the CCC, is giving Shadman a stick and poke tattoo in the middle of this like pre-dinner festivities. There was also this cleaning team experience where Avinov, I guess, didn't really vibe with whatever team he was on, because basically when the citizenship onboarding would happen, people would pitch their teams, and they'd be like, hey, this is what our team is all about. There's one team, my team...
[00:38:27] Amy Jo Weaver: Yellow team!
[00:38:28] Shadman Uddin: Yellow team!
[00:37:28] Micky Wolf: Yes. Blue team, baby! And Jackson was on the super competitive one. I remember the…
[00:38:34] Amy Jo Weaver: Yellow. Jackson and I were yellow for life. We would set a timer and we'd be so efficient and everyone on our team was, alright, we're just going to get in there. The dishes weren't always that clean, but we got in and out.
[00:38:45] Shadman Uddin: You guys were not that good. You guys were not that good.
[00:38:48] Micky Wolf: The co-creation of Avinov being, I don't actually vibe with any of these teams. And he stood up one time at dinner and was, I'm actually forming my own new team right now, gave this whole speech about it, and then three or four people were like, yeah, that team actually sounds pretty cool. I'm going to join that instead.
[00:39:02] Michael Wedd: Yeah. And I think one of the key things that really made this successful, so it was just like we totally re-signified chores as group fun, and it was legitimately fun.
[00:39:13] Amy Jo Weaver: So fun.
[00:39:14] Michael Wedd: And I think there's music playing. It was honestly like (00:39:16) pivot of these tasks into something that people really actually enjoyed.
[00:39:22] Amy Jo Weaver: I feel like we're talking a lot about structural things and processes, and all this is great. I do just want to touch on a personal success story and something that I don't think we've really referenced yet, which is just the amount of creativity and personal vulnerability that really flourished there. I'm thinking of our freestyle sessions, and honestly some of the first times I've ever freestyled and felt really comfortable freestyling. I think a lot of people had some first there in terms of first-time freestyling or sharing a song or sharing poetry, sharing personal experiences, and that level of kind of human connection, vulnerability, and creativity was really unmatched there. And something that I'm always trying to get back to in my personal life is create that environment where folks feel really free to express themselves.
[00:40:08] Jackson Steger: Definitely. We also had people quit their jobs and start a company, which was super sick.
[00:40:14] So, as we approach close, I'm curious to know, because there's been this like kind of funny filter of people who participated in CCC San Diego, like me and JD getting involved with Cabin. I know Shad has done some stuff for the Cabin. Micky was just there a few weeks ago. Mike and I went pretty deep a few nights. And there's definitely this shared love for coliving and the vulnerable and creativity that it can help encourage. And so, there's been a lot of, my personal motivation for doing a lot of Cabin stuff has been just the positive and wonderful experience I had in San Diego, and I want personally to continue in that direction. But curious to know the directions each of you have taken since San Diego and since the Jim Thorpe experience. So, if we could just go around, I would love to know what everyone's doing, and it doesn't have to be related to coliving or these co-creating experiences, but it could be.
[00:41:09] Amy Jo Weaver: So, first of all, Micky and I are still working on a new iteration of the CCC. We are having a retreat for New Year's Eve, open invite to the folks on this call as well, and we've been co-creating with Bronson and Matima. Mats was not at CCC San Diego, Bronson was, although Mats was very instrumental in helping us plan the first CCC. She just wasn't able to personally join that one. So, that's been really cool to continue on this iteration. Who knows if it'll still be called CCC, right? This group that we’ll call as ever-evolving group of folks that have a shared values and a shared purpose, a shared desire to gather people, it's been evolving and will continue to evolve. But anyone who has participated in this is very much still a part of that.
[00:41:55] So, that's one area. And I think also in having moved to L.A., I really focused my personal motivations, my personal life, social life and just building community around L.A. and being rooted in the – yeah. So, I've launched the L.A. Chapter of the CCC and hosting various gatherings that I could think of them as many CCC San Diegos or various events or gatherings that kind of mimic the same energy, creativity, and purpose-driven gathering that we did there. Exciting events coming, lots of stuff going on in L.A. And yeah, if you're in L.A., join the CCC L.A. Chapter.
[00:42:31] Jackson Steger: Popping over to you. I'll just say like you being in L.A. was a huge reason that me and three others who live in the CCC decided to get a place there.
[00:42:40] Micky, moving over to you. What's new in your life since San Diego and Jim Thorpe?
[00:42:45] Micky Wolf: Yeah, I definitely had some personal relationship growth from that period of time. Really, I think one of the things focused on from the CCC is how do you authentically share your feelings for people, and that was something that I definitely, being in vulnerable space, learned and had a whole wonderful experience from that since that time. I think also just generally really rooting in relationships, I've done so many different surprises and meaningful, thoughtful ways to let the people that are in my life that I care about know that I care about them.
[00:43:15] Also, re-rooted in community in Baltimore. I came to Baltimore through Venture for America, and one of the few people from our class that actually still works at the first job that I was at through VFA, and I think that seeing how powerful community has been with the CCC has made me really lean into bringing that ethos of co-creation and collaboration. Like I'm our director of partnerships, and one of the things that really I've continued on is that ethos of bringing different voices into the table, what does it mean to have equity in those experiences.
[00:43:49] And one of the things, I know this is a little bit earlier, so maybe it'll get chopped into an earlier piece, but I think a regret, or just a challenge maybe, is just when you are building these communities, I think Cabin also is going through this right now, how do you center equity in that experience and center stress to social and racial equity? It's something that like we've tried to do within the CCC, especially now centering imaginative justice as like a framework moving forward, but just because the people that are most able to like access experiences that might cause them to work remotely or spend money to go and colive in a different house, I think it's a big challenge for the community as a whole. It was a challenge for us in that first home as well. But yeah, I think it just, the experiences in the CCC and my experiences at Dent have also really rooted me in a personal mission of building a more equitable future and imagining that with creative open people like those on this call as well.
[00:44:44] Shadman Uddin: Thanks, Jackson. Yeah, for me, after the CCC, I really did some deep thinking about what I love about the CCC and what I didn't necessarily love and where I wanted to grow. I mean, for me, I realized that I have a pretty strong core passion to see humans flourishing, but I really wanted to focus on the people who typically don't have college degrees. I think they're college continues to be like such a key tool in a promise for the American dream and for human flourishing.
[00:45:10] And so, I ended up moving more in the direction of, hey, what can we do to provide and support people, the two-thirds of Americans who don't have college degrees, and still give them a pathway to a flourishing life? So, I hopped over to graduate school. I'm at Stanford right now in the education school where I'm doing a lot of research around next gen learning models, thinking about adult learning, thinking about what the future of lifelong learning and adult learning looks like. So, it's been great being there.
[00:45:35] And then personally, on just like my own development as a leader, I realized during the CCC experience that I really did not feel super equipped to lead a venture backed or venture scalable business, and that's what's something I really wanted to do. And so, I took some time. After the CCC, I ran a startup accelerator, and then I joined a venture studio to learn more about the VC world and learning more about how to build a venture backable business. And one of the beautiful things about being here in the Bay Area right now is just continuing to workshop ideas and potentially prepare to launch a venture again, if that's the next step, but still figuring it out where that impact lies. And I definitely am leading with impact first of how I want to build, and whatever the role that makes sense for me, I'm excited to jump right back into it. So, that's me.
[00:46:22] Michael Wedd: Yeah. It’s awesome to see the different ways that people have taken some of those seeds from CCC and kind of grown them into different things. And I think Jackson and you, Shadman, are like really taking on new inspired things more full-time. I know AJ and Micky, you still have full-time jobs as well, which is also amazing. I think for me, after CCC, I really dove into taking care of my family and really focusing on my day job as a software engineer, to be honest with you, and just really took a lot of those experiences to heart and a lot of those people to heart, many of them on this call. And I'm currently in Hawaii, as Jackson said. I was hanging out with him and Steven who made a little cameo on the camera a minute ago last night. And just being here in L.A. with AJ and some of our other community members, I've had a renewed inspiration for just these relationships and the way that they inspired me and continue to inspire me to be a happier and more, well, flourishing person and to bring that to others.
[00:47:22] I'm pretty open-minded to the future. I think I just had JD, another former CCC, onboarding call to Cabin the other day, and I'm like really excited to jump into the community and see where I can add value. And I will say, I don't think we've all talked about this, but being in the L.A. Chapter of CCC, I was like, we need to get these people together again. We need to bring new people in for that critical thing of the new people folding in and building on the relationships. So, I don't know exactly what that looks like in the future for myself, but I definitely want to contribute to everyone here's projects and maybe be instrumental in organizing some sort of coliving pop-up experience in, I don’t know, somewhere else. We'll see. But I just know that I have a lot of love in my heart for the people on this call and for everyone I've met through this exercise, and they continue to be some of the most powerful and inspirational relationships in my life.
[00:48:15] Jackson Steger: What a great note to end on. Thank you all for co-creating this podcast with me and for co-creating one of the best months, if not, the best month of my life last January. I hope you all have a great rest of your day, and I'm sure I'll see you all soon enough.
[00:48:29] Micky Wolf: Love you all.
[00:48:30] Michael Wedd: Thanks Jackson. Love you all.
[00:48:32] Amy Jo Weaver: Besitos!
[00:48:33] Shadman Uddin: Si!