The third place is a concept of Ray Oldenburg, urban sociologist and author of The Great Good Place. Oldenburg defines the “first place” as your home and the “second place” as your office. At each of these places you find yourself in assigned roles and tasks. You know most of the people in these two places, and interact with these same folks on a daily basis. The third place is where you meet new people, you share ideas, you learn different perspectives, and you gain new life experiences.
The third place can take shape in various forms: coffee shops, public parks, local bars, and outdoor concerts. Some are more formal, while others are organic and unstructured. The most vibrant are those that are accessible, spark conversation, motivate action, and include a little fun, food, and the element of surprise.
Researchers have found that communities with more open networks (those connecting and engaging with people from different clusters or groups), fair better economically and in quality of life. Open networks don’t happen overnight. They require diversity, interdependence and authentic dialogue. We learn from ideas that surround us, and others learn from us. This cross-pollination of ideas not only generates individual success (yes, there is a direct link to more digits on your paycheck), but a greater collective intelligence.
You might argue that we are more connected now than ever before, but many people feel disconnected from the meaning of their work and their communities.
In an interdependent global economy with volumes of information and superficial political and social networks, sustainable success requires more than surface level, screen-ruled connections. The research and our own experience tell us that the health of our community is truly dependent on authentic engagement and collaboration.
Last weekend, our Off Script Retreat (with partners RWS and CommunityShare) created a pop-up third space. Eighteen innovative teachers and school leaders from elementary through college came together to learn, listen and reflect across networks. In the flurry of sharing ideas, scribbling on sticky notes, and snacking on delicious bites, these folks started a professional learning network that can continue to spark authentic conversations and continued leadership.How do you create the space to learn and lead?