Human connection and community are critical for mental health, emotional well-being, and healthy human existence to thrive. In fact, recent studies in neuroscience show that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. Humans, as well as other mammals, are shaped by social environments and suffer greatly when social bonds are severed.
At the same time, we find ourselves in an era where loneliness is at an all-time high and our ability to authentically connect with each other has been in decline. The recent lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines resulting from COVID-19 are only accelerating these pre-existing trends. Social isolation seems to be working as a mechanism toward reducing the rate of infection, but from a mental health perspective, social isolation presents an increased risk for a variety of mental and emotional disorders, including premature mortality. The loss of jobs and loved ones deepen these risks. In the face of this reality, it is critical that we provide our communities with the resources and inspiration needed to maintain a deep sense of social connection.
This is why my organization, HATCH has been piloting a new program that encourages authentic social connection and enables hundreds of people currently living in quarantine to combat the mental health risks involved with social isolation. However, we don’t stop there -- we also inspire and steward innovative solutions to social problems -- that’s been HATCH’s mission for over 15 years.
At the outset of the pandemic, HATCH (founded in 2004), launched the Global Living Room (GLR), an online gathering offering support, wisdom, and expertise with hundreds of thought leaders from around the world. Each week a diverse collective meets online to discuss personal and societal challenges. Each live session includes a medley of insights from astronauts, scientists, psychologists, doctors, artists, poets, designers, students, and other leaders in a time of collective sense-making (See HATCH fellows here). In addition to social connectivity, GLRs offers interactive break out sessions on relevant topics including ingenuity, mental health, regenerative farming, business, climate, and art. We accomplish through web-based software as well an app called H360 that we are developing.
Most importantly, what started as an opportunity for social connection has manifested into a weekly experience that converts group conversations into social action. There are already proven outcomes.
The most recent example being the HATCH Mask Force Initiative. At the first Global Living Room, HATCHer John Taylor let the group know about thousands of surgical masks available in Shenzhen, China. Immediately, a HATCH Mask Force formed and within 8 days thousands of surgical masks and face shields went from China to doctors in New York City. The self-directed team consisting of an engineer, a multimedia artist, a creative play strategist, and a blockbuster movie director are now piloting an ongoing process for donor-to-hospital delivery for underserved hospitals across America.
Other initiatives stemming from the first three Global Living Rooms include Kimberly-Clark and 3M joining forces to manufacture masks, a distiller re-appropriating a spirits company to create hand sanitizer, a visual artist creating a campaign around the diverse heroes of COVID-19, and Ask3Gens.com, a new initiative focused on knowledge sharing between the seven generations alive today. These are just a few examples. Our goal is to not only socially connect but to inspire social action and collaboration, which is what we’ll need to rebuild a better world.
We are ready to scale our program to include Local Living Rooms in HATCH Chapter cities. Having lost a critical part of our funding from in-person events, the transition to an online forum is essential if we are to have a continued impact on local and global challenges. In a time of collective sense-making, working to understand inflection points, reframe challenges, and identify opportunities to create solutions is critical.