Connecting Communities with Marisa Denker & Naomi Murphy | Meet the GirlCrewer #79
“We aim to keep co-creating customised events that are anything but conventional. Our mission is to bring people together around topics that matter.”
For those of you in GirlCrew Dublin, you might have seen my recent post about collaborating with a growing company called Connect the Dots. Well, we sat down and had the chats with co-founders Marisa Denker and Naomi Murphy to give you inside scoop on their brand and focus. At its core, Connect the Dots has a simple concept; they create bespoke events that are co-created with others in the wider community. However, unlike others in the space they aim to ensure that each event makes a practical impact that is lasting and meaningful. “We started Connect the Dots in 2014 when we met on our Masters in Design Practice, but really, we have been connecting dots for as long as we can remember!…[we] had both been looking for ways to connect with others who had similar passions to us – around addressing urban and social challenges (from reusing vacant space, to greening the city, to enabling social cohesion).”
Through the company Marisa and Naomi am to bring people from all levels together to discuss issues, break them down, and most importantly, address them. This is a refreshing move away from the standard model, which can often be all talk and very little action. “We went to lots conferences, networking events, and talks on these topics – but too often, left feeling disappointed.” For the pair, this deflation often stemmed from the disconnection between the theme of the events and the realities faced by people. “The events seemed out of touch with what people actually wanted to hear and talk about. We also found the environment quite uncomfortable and stiff, rather than facilitative or conducive to conversation. Ultimately, we felt that these conventional events weren’t meeting their potential – we wanted to see an event that would really squeeze the most out of the short amount of time that everyone is together for.”
In order to break down these barriers, the pair came up with a fresh solution. “So we started to make our own. Unlike other events where the agenda comes from the event organisers, we co-create our events with the attendees, engaging them to learn what they want out of the event so we can tailor it around their wants and needs. For our first event, 50/50 people came and they asked for another, and another – branching out to different topics and focuses.” With 17 events under their belt, Connect the Dots is continuing to evolve and expand their offering, something which they are particularly proud of. “We aim to keep co-creating customised events that are anything but conventional. Our mission is to bring people together around topics that matter.” If you’re interested in getting involved in things that matter the next Connect the Dots event is next Thursday 3rd Nov, which will be hosted in conjunction with the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow, and you can RSVP here.
1) What is the best thing about your role?
Marisa: “I love how no one day is the same – we are always meeting new inspiring people to partner and collaborate with, and learning about new ways that we apply Connect the Dots to make impact.”
Naomi: “The best thing (and by same token the worst thing) is that it’s totally self-directed and dependent on my energy levels and what I am capable of. Having no one else above you to dictate what way you work is an amazing feeling but also hugely challenging.”
2) What did you find most challenging about it?
Marisa: “It’s pretty constant – we both have part time jobs as well and Connect the Dots is almost full-time in itself, so it is a lot of hours – but I love doing it so it doesn’t often feel like work.”
Naomi: “The non-stop feeling like it never ends, similar to Marisa, it’s when you love your work so much that you can run yourself into the ground which happens from time to time!”
3) What is your proudest work related achievement to date?
Marisa: “I think it’s the little things; it’s learning about the impact of our events – how they make people feel, grow, develop new ideas – and it’s learning about the conversations, connections, and collaborations that are facilitated through Connect the Dots.”
Naomi: “Same. And conquering fears of public speaking all the time!”
4) What would be your one tip to others who want to get involved in this industry?
Marisa: “It’s a lot about reaching out to people, not being afraid to reach out to mentors, ask questions, ask for advice. Most importantly, you should never give up – don’t let the small obstacles or disappointments ever stop you from reaching your dreams.”
Naomi: “Reflection is important, understanding why you’re doing something in a larger context of what’s going on socially, environmentally… and go with your gut – it’s the best bullshit detector.”
5) What would be your motto in life, and in work?
Marisa: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Naomi: “Now that you know, what will you do.”
6) What’s your favourite thing about being in GirlCrew?
Both: Love the ethos – bringing people together, fostering support, and a network that people can rely on.