Personal Statement 2019: Call for new projects!

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I got my first computer when I was 14. I just moved to Austria and didn’t speak much German. I remember using Skype, searching for people in Vienna and sending them a contact request, then chatting with them and eventually meeting them in person. Back then, it was considered a bit crazy to meet strangers for coffee. Yet I was desperately trying to make Vienna my home.

Then in 2015, I went on vacation with someone I met on an app called Wander four years prior to this incredible adventure. Wander was an app dedicated to connecting people who lived in different countries to learn more about the cultural differences and what unites people regardless their heritage from locals. When Roy and I met on Wander in 2011, no one knew how breakfast looked in Australia or what sort of public transport people took in South Korea. After our week, our connection through the app was over, so Roy and I followed one another on Instagram.

Given I always wanted to see South Africa, yet I didn’t want to visit the country as a tourist, I gathered all my courage and asked Roy if he would go on a road trip through his country with me. I thought that after following someone on Instagram for four years, I had a pretty good idea what that person valued and how it would be to hang out with them. (And I was right.)

To this day, I consider this the most incredible trip I’ve ever taken! I got to see Roy’s country with the knowledge only a local has and he got to rediscover his home through my fresh eyes. We both demonstrated trust and respect and most of all, we’ve created a beautiful friendship that will last forever.

The social web has always been a place for me to find like-minds and build trust with people regardless their heritage. I’ve had meaningful conversations and received so much kindness from strangers who I “only knew” digitally. It was all these tiny experiences that made me so excited about the social web and its possibilities.

I used Instagram when I first moved to Utrecht to meet locals. I did again when I moved to Berlin. I love how with the help of Instagram, Airbnb, Meetup, Couchsurfing, Foursquare, and probably some other social apps it’s become easy to feel connected immediately. I love how Etsy, Kickstarter, Creative Market, EyeEm, Skillshare, etc. give everyone the possibility to start a business and grow it regardless of where they were from or who they know. It’s these platforms that make me excited about my career as a community strategist.

When studying interior architecture, I was most excited about using spaces as a platform to merge different industries. I was excited about using spaces to bring together people. And I was excited about drafting floor plans and thinking about how people moved through spaces and connected with one another. To this day, it’s never been much of a surprise to me that I started working as a digital community strategist when the social web was all about defining how people met and connected on this new platform. Coming at it with the mindset of a designer made my approach unique and my work incredibly exciting.

All of my work has always been about building bridges between people. About using space – digital or physical – to create platforms for people to meet. Not necessarily just as friends or professional contacts; often – and especially during my time leading the outreach initiative for Kickstarter in Europe – with the aim to exchange money for a service or a product. My approach to communication has always been based on the ideology to help people live by their values, to find their tribe, and to feel a part of something.

In recent years, I’ve noticed how much less I’ve cared about the ordinary approach to online communication and marketing. I’ve noticed how much my focus has shifted to focus on how people connect offline. To me, online has become a tool to provide information and make it easily understandable whether a product or a service is suitable for the consumer/reader. It’s about speaking clear language, yet it’s definitely not about distracting people through an endless flow of Instagram posts, Facebook updates, tweets, etc. To me, it’s much more about creating a digital experience where people find what they’re looking for clearly outlined, structured, and readily available.

With my work, I care to create real value; I care to create value propositions and help ideate offerings for people to easily understand it’s an offer they’ll appreciate. I care to create experiences and gatherings for people to connect and find the value they’re missing and seeking. To me, such is about defining a very clear, targeted offering that’s communicated clearly. It’s about defining instructions and a framework to make people feel welcome and invited. And it’s about considering how people meet and interact to feel connected and like they are “in the right place.”

In 2019 and with my work I’d like to focus on:

  • concept, creation, and production of temporary and permanent spaces dedicated to intensify communication between people

and

  • audience facilitation at events

In the past, I’ve worked on projects for companies such as Kickstarter or LifeStart by Virgin Money. In the future, I’d like to work on projects with innovative, future-minded corporates, public sector organizations, museums, and the like.

I’d love to do things such as rethink how people meet and interact with one another at airports.

I’d love to oversee the audience engagement at conferences.

I’d love to rally communities around a common cause, such as the upcoming European Election.

I’d love to work on projects that help people live a more intentional, creative life and that create a world where people dare to go on a vacation with a stranger.

You might think I’m idealistic. All I’m saying is I care about the cause, the possibility, and the (human) experience.

Please email me (helloATmkanokovaDOTcom) if you have a project in mind or know of someone I should talk to. I’m available for new projects starting January, 14th!

Monika Kanokova