A Virtual Tribe can be a powerful force for good
As the founder of the Global Walking Tribe, I am utterly convinced that a virtual tribe can be a powerful force for good.
My conviction has been cemented by reaching the Jubilee – 50 thirty-day challenges of the Walking Tribe. We are a virtual community of women who walk wherever we are in the world for 30 minutes a day, posting photos of our walks on the monthly theme, to a Facebook group.
It didn’t start as a tribe. It started as my personal quest for health and fitness. Just before my 50th birthday, I made a promise to myself: to walk 30 minutes a day for 30 days, early each morning and, to hold myself to account, I posted my intention on Facebook.
Early the next morning I set off for the first of my thirty walks. The air was crisp, and colourful parrots were searching for titbits amongst the craggy rocks high about the Georges River in the south of Sydney. Long shafts of golden light threw patterns on the path, and rowers shattered the glassy water with their paddles. It was magical, this time before the rush of the day. My racing head stilled, and I breathed deeply, listening to the rhythm of my feet hitting the dirt path as I walked.
I was hooked. The 30 minutes flew by, and I looked forward to heading out the next day. Others were inspired, so as I walked and posted, they walked and posted, wherever they were. When the first 30 days ended, I started again. Friends near and far joined me. Virtually.
Over time I added monthly themes to focus on while walking. Then I added a ‘plus ten’ challenge (ten minutes a day to improve life – something like decluttering, stretching, connecting or silence) – so each challenge was the 30/30+10 Walking Challenge.
Someone, somewhere, called us ‘The Walking Tribe’, and it stuck.
Fast forward 50 months. I’ve walked every day (that’s nearly 1500 walks), produced 50 themes to walk with and been joined by more than 200 people (25 to 60 people each month). As a group of women, mostly in our 40s to 60s with multiple responsibilities and challenges, it is easy to lose focus on self-care, yet through our connection members of the tribe have gone from unfit to fit, lonely to connected, stressed to focusing on daily self-care.
The themes are powerful, and fragments of each previous theme sticks (for example ‘Tracking and Tracks’, ‘Think Up’, ‘Purple and Passion’, ‘Platforms and Play’ and ‘Framing’). We play with literal and figurative interpretations of the themes on our walks and in life, and each month provides an opportunity for improvements.
The posts offer a window into other people’s villages, towns, cities and countries, and into each other’s worlds. We share down times and celebrations – births and deaths, operations and recoveries, jobs lost and contracts found, accompanied by photos of walks all over the world, focusing on the theme. And so, the sense of community builds.
Building a strong tribe requires strong boundaries and expectations from the leader, and a commitment from each participant to nurture the community. The Walking Tribe’s focus on accountability, affirmation and celebration really works.
If you are going to run a virtual community, consider adopting these three principles, as we have:
Knowing you are part of a community with similar goals is a strong motivator to stay on track. The Walking Tribe is a constant reminder to show up, and to walk. For increased impact, tribe members can buddy up to hold one another to account.
There is nothing more encouraging than knowing there is a group of people cheering for you and offering a healthy dose of affirmation. For us, the Walking Tribe provides a safe and powerful space to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging.
It is easy to forget to celebrate the small wins as we achieve them. Our Walking Tribe is a place of celebration of gorgeous images, of connection and of achievement.
Yes, a virtual community can be a powerful force for good – a place for accountability, affirmation and celebration. How great would it be if we could create a network of Tribes that are a force for good, like the Walking Tribe? Let’s do it.
In my next post, I’ll provide the ‘Tribe-Building Manifesto’ for virtual tribes with a focus on creating Triple Wins as we have done in the Walking Tribe; that’s wins for you, those around you and the world.