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Posts by ramblinrosenfield

Fraternities As Community Security

Community is an ambiguous word. It can be big (think the East Coast community) or small (the community of left handed Austin baristas). A community could be a collection of like-minded individuals, or a large group of individuals that don’t know each other (once again, think New York City).

What a community can do is provide us with security. Whether big or small, we take comfort in knowing that at the end of the day, someone in our community will be there for us.

fraternity community sesrvice construction working together

There are examples of communities all over the world, that are small or large, and that provide the same security. For many 20-something Americans, one particular community that comes to mind is the fraternities and sororities that encompass the college experience.

While often scrutinized, fraternities and sororities often represent the pinnacle in terms of the security provided by its members to one another. Stories of brothers and sisters banding together to help raise money for a fallen member, of fallen family member of one of their own are the things that don’t show up in campus or national headlines.

Some enjoy their fraternity experience so much they’ve compared living in the house to “living with 30 of your best friends,” as you spend breakfast, lunch, dinner, formals, parties, meetings, and casual Saturdays sitting around with your brothers, talking about everything from women, to sports, to the future. You see people’s highest highs (both literally and metaphorically) and lowest lows, and get to know your brothers (or sisters) in a way that maybe their high school friends did not.

What else within fraternities causes this bond to form? The pledge process. The fact that, for eight weeks, you, along with 30 or so other guys or girls are subject to certain tasks designed not only to tire you out, but also to grow you, and bond you together. There is no greater bonding experience than one where a small sampling of people take some sort of adversity and manage grow as a unit while battling that hardship. It’s those types of situations that help a group of random guys become best friends, and come to their fellow pledge brother’s aide in any instance.

The headlines paint one picture. But actually being a member of the Greek community, and reaping the benefits paints another, one of strength, friendship, and a security that is matched in very few other organizations.

The Incredible Energy of Startup Cultures

Startup. It’s a word that has many different meanings to many different people. A word that is synonymous with other words like “entrepreneur”, “enterprising”, “co-working”, and “venture capital”, among others.

While all these other buzzwords are being thrown around, there’s one word interlaced among them all: energy. There is an energy surrounding those entrepreneurs, who share energy when they co-work with other entrepreneurs to create game-changing (yes, another buzzword) products and applications that will energize venture capital companies during a seed funding presentation.

That energy that encompasses these co-working spaces filled with entrepreneurs who put their entire lives on hold to create what they hope to be disruptive startup companies is the same energy that permeates out to the cities that play host to these entrepreneurs. We hear of the energy in Harvard dorm rooms, Silicon Valley, and new startup cultures in Austin and Seattle, along with international startup hubs like London and Tel Aviv.

But there’s one city experiencing it’s own startup revolution. One that doesn’t dominate the Mashable or TechCrunch airwaves.

detroit roadsign green startup label enter

That city is Detroit. The same city known for its innovation relating to the automobile industry at the turn of the 20th century is also one where that same blue-collar mentality is permeating itself in the downtown startup culture.

Detroit is not Silicon Valley, the “it” place built on the ever growing world of tech startups- some which produced an ungodly amount of success (re: Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, etc) and many that failed miserably. Detroit is an old Midwestern city that since 1960 has lost more than half of its population (according to the 2010 US Census) but has experienced a revival of sorts, with businessmen looking to revive the local downtown scene by moving their business from the suburbs, and non-profits engaging in creative outreach to areas such as civil rights, the environment, and young professional engagement.

Take one startup in particular: CommunityNext. It’s an organization sponsored by a longstanding Detroit institution, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and is designed as a way to keep young Jewish adults in Detroit.  While the young adult vibe is present in Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, among other metro Detroit enclaves, CommunityNext works with budding entrepreneurs to offer them subsidized housing in downtown Detroit IF their company/product is one that is a grassroots initiative promoting social change for the city of Detroit.

Think of what  a $500-$3,000 does for a budding entrepreneur. Think of what a housing subsidy does for someone who puts their life on hold to find a way to promote social innovation and change in the place that they grew up. Think of how that same housing subsidy could attract another socialpreneur, who might live in Silicon Valley, but desire to move to a place where he or she can have a greater hand in initiating social change.

This type of action creates that same community of energy present in Austin, Boston and Tel Aviv. However, the startup buzzword that epitomizes Detroit isn’t necessarily ‘growth’. It’s ‘revitalization’. Connecting the old and the new. Putting the “motor” back in “Motor City”.

The Beautiful Game

pelada silhouette soccer players together

Puedo jugar contigo?

It was just a simple phrase meaning “can I play with you?” in Spanish, then translated into different languages, that allowed American soccer players Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham into cultures vastly different than theirs, for one reason: the desire to play soccer.

Boughen and Oxenham (now married to Boughen) traveled the world in filming their movie, “Pelada”, in search of pickup games and the people who play them. The film took them from a prison in Bolivia, to a closed-off secret game with Oxenham and Iranian women dressed in full religious garb, to a tournament of moonshine brewers in the slums of Kenya. The film allowed these two former collegiate soccer players to answer the question of:

What does a well-to-do suburban soccer player, who attended a prestigious American private college, who had a chance to play professionally and was pursuing a law degree, have in common with a moonshine brewer from the slums of Africa?

The love for the game of soccer.

In the critically-acclaimed documentary “Pelada”, Boughen and Oxenham show us that even though the Bolivian prisoners play in a heavily guarded jail, and Israelis and Palestinians play in the dark on opposite sides of a tennis court, the object is still the same: put the ball in the other team’s goal. With the Chinese freestylers, it was the shared idea that the soccer ball, not their former high-paying banking jobs, was the key to happiness.

Puedo jugar contigo? Kan ek met jou speel? Kann ich mit dir spielen? Posso brincar com voce? Though four different languages, the translation is still the same: Can I play with you? Five simple words (in English) that can open an American soccer player into the world of a soccer player a world over, who shares that love for the “beautiful game”.

Everyone has a passion. Why not find someone—who might be 3,000 miles away in a completely different life situation—who shares that same passion?

“Pelada” proved that with five words, and one ball, it was possible to step inside and share radically different cultures. We at OurPangea hope to allow others to create their own “Pelada,” and promote their shared passions through cross-cultural connections.

You have a “beautiful game,” now share it.

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