Season 2 – Episode 07

Designing Brand Communities
for Belonging

with Charles Vogl

Artwork by Ionut Caras

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We long to belong.

The desire to be a part of a community is a fundamental human yearning, yet broad swaths of Americans have never felt more isolated. In fact, four out of ten report regularly feeling lonely, and very few have more than two people they consider confidants. Why is this happening? What can we do about it? Is there an opportunity for businesses and organizations to fill the void? And if so, how do we design for belonging in brand communities?

Today, Jeffrey takes a deep dive into the concept of belonging with executive consultant Charles Vogl, author of The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging. Charles describes his personal feelings around being an outsider and discusses the top three trends contributing to the loneliness epidemic in the US. He shares his experience at Yale Divinity School, explaining the pervasive ‘crisis of belonging’ on campus and how that phenomenon informs his current work.

Charles also offers his definition of community as shared mutual concern and discusses how brands might foster genuine connection among a customer base. Jeffrey asks why leaders and event planners miss the mark, and Charles uncovers the necessity of facilitating shared experiences and investing in the growth of diverse groups. Listen in for insight on the value of story in revealing what a business values and learn how you can build a brand for belonging.

Our Guests

Charles Vogl

An author and executive consultant, Charles Vogl helps leaders in technology, finance, media, government, and social good organizations become more effective in creating meaningful change. Using principles drawn from more than 3000 years of community and spiritual tradition, he teaches others how to inspire powerful connections in critical relationships, in order to produce the kind of change that impacts generations.

His first book The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging was recently published by Berrett-Koehler. Building on the concept that community and belonging can be developed through time-tested ideas and rituals, The Art of Community is a guide to creating and fostering meaningful communities that benefit individuals and humanity as a whole.

Charles lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Socheata. He includes surviving a plane crash, a spitting cobra attack, and acute malaria (all in one year) among his life-changing experiences.

» Charles’ Website

Key Takeaways

[4:34] Young Charles at his most free

  • ‘Paradise and play’ on Hawaii beach
  • More outgoing, social than siblings

[6:11] Charles’ feeling of being an outsider

  • Multiethnic (Chinese American + Austrian surname)
  • Lack of representation in media taught not welcome

[10:51] The rise of loneliness in the US

  • 3 in 4 don’t have friends they want
  • 1 in 2 experience anxiety as result

[14:05] The causes of this loneliness epidemic

  • Move more than past generations
  • Leaving home faith traditions
  • Digital lives (more screen time = less happy)
  • Decline of public institutions

[19:09] Charles’ experience at Yale Divinity School

  • ‘Crisis of belonging’ in campus culture
  • Inspired to help people feel connected

[25:09] Charles’ definition of community

  • Share mutual concern for one another
  • Opportunity to feel connected, trusting

[28:11] How Charles describes the structure of community

  • Includes full members, novices and visitors
  • Leaders facilitate growth of mutual concern
  • Must feel safe to reveal things about self

[39:21] How to foster mutual care among a customer base

  • Provide temple for meaningful rituals
  • Symbol represents values (e.g.: Harley Davidson)

[43:56] How to foster diverse communities

  • Help members be who want to be
  • Enrich rather than just ‘hang out’

[47:55] How leaders can create moments of openness

  • Shared experience requisite to mutual concern
  • Opportunity for intimacy (see each other)

[57:06] How story fosters a shared experience

  • Stories reveal values (not website)
  • Must be REAL, accessible

[1:01:26] What Charles is pursuing in the next year

  • Inspire leaders to foster community
  • Combat loneliness and isolation

Caras Ionut

Caras Ionut was born in Romania in the late 70s and is currently devoted to photography. Ionut loves the things that happen around so he always has a camera to capture moments, and then turn them into dreams and positive images of what he wants. We leave you to judge for yourself and be surprised with this wonderful work.

Are you a Wonder Designer?

We’re inviting you to share with our community of listeners how you are a wonder designer this season.

​​​​​​​It’s easy and takes just 3 minutes of your time:

In 15-30 seconds or less, state your name, where you live, and your url if you wish, and state in 1-3 sentences one way you are a Wonder Designer.
Make it personal and personable. Not a pitch. Not a teaching.

For example, “Hi, Jeffrey and Tracking Wonder. My name is Abigail Madley. I live in Towanka, Washington, and you can find me online at One way I am a wonder designer is by shaping educational experiences for elders that bring them more joy and happiness in assisted living.”
“I am a wonder designer because everyday I am fostering more connection with strangers in the city where I live.”
“I am a wonder designer because I am encouraging more open listening at the startup where I work.”
“One way I am a wonder designer these days is by having my three children sing for their breakfast. It makes a hectic morning pretty funny.”​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Listen back to your submission, and when you are happy with it, click send!

​​​​​​​Your response could end up on the Tracking Wonder Podcast this season.

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