Community Building Necessitates Finding the Intersection Between Mystery & Safety, Says Radha Agrawal



“We have to create mystery in life, just like in any relationship, so that it doesn’t get stagnant over time,” Agrawal told #SMWNYC attendees during a discussion of ways to build more genuine, inspired communities.


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The Internet has ways of both connecting people and making them feel more isolated than ever.

Radha Agrawal, CEO and author of Belong: Find Your People, Create Community and Live A More Connected Life led #SMWNYC attendees in a morning dance break while serving up fresh inspiration for building a sustainable community.

“When I turned 30, I realized I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I’d chosen work over relationships, was in the hamster wheel of entrepreneurship and building my business,” Agrawal said. “I looked at myself and asked, who are my people? Where do I belong?”

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She talked about her decade-long journey of traveling the world to study what brings people together — and this led to the creation of Daybreaker, a global morning dance community.

And the result of this “social experiment,” she shared, was so much joy. This journey is outlined in her new book, a blueprint of how to Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life, the title of her session.

“For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged, even in different cities around the world,” she said. “Studies have shown humans are most optimistic and joyful in the morning. Daybreaker was born out of this experiment of community and business building… how can we actually bring community back, and the feeling of belonging?”

Building a sustainable community IRL — in real life

How did Daybreaker do this? Through morning dance events now held in over 25 cities worldwide. Agrawal shared some of the core principals she believes builds the Daybreaker community is built on.

The intersection of mystery and safety

By emphasizing general safety around any dance event, as well as keeping an aura of mystery and wonder. But it’s the mystery that helps sustain community, while safety helps you grow it. Both of these are what keep people coming back to the event: the safe opportunity for people to come, self-express, and let go of themselves.

“We have to create mystery in life, just like in any relationship, so that it doesn’t get stagnant over time. How can we bring more mystery into our events and experiences?”

In a competitive, fast-paced social world, where scintillating digital experiences scream for people’s attention, the offline, IRL experiences need to be just as connected and beautiful.

Create a Contact High: Release the D.O.S.E.

That is, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Seratonin, and Endorphins; the core tent of happy brain chemicals. Looking at the science of it, these chemicals can create a feeling of total contentment and happiness.

When Daybreaker plans its global dance events, it thinks about how to allow attendees to release the D.O.S.E., rather than focusing on metrics-based engagements, KPIs, and the like. Rather, focus on creating the feeling of being a part of something.

How can brands create intentional experiences that make each attendee or community member actually feel beyond the numbers?

These tips — from rituals and event aesthetics to how brands talk to their consumers online and IRL — are the core building blocks for how to build a sustainable, genuine community from the ground up.

“If an event and experience is not an inspiring transformation of the self, why are you doing it anyway?” Agrawal asked. “You want community members to walk away feeling special, not isolated… to not only buy your product but to feel a part of the larger conversation. They’ll want to stay connected.”

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