Good Talk celebrates a year of structuring spaces to build community

· The Pulse

The Good Talk Collective is set to celebrate a year of small events that explore what it means to be a leader and work to heal loneliness, disconnection, and division.

Good Talk is "basically a place for anybody who's just looking to be in community with other folks also grappling with big questions about how they show up in the world," co-founder Lindsay Humber told Taproot.

The group's anniversary event runs June 7 at YWCA Edmonton Cushing House. Like all Good Talk events, it will raise money for the CHEW Project (serving vulnerable or homeless 2SLGBTQ+ youth), and will centre on a theme applied to leadership at home, in the community, or at work.

Shannon Price, Good Talk's other co-founder, said the idea is that being a leader doesn't only apply to business CEOs, presidents, or executive directors, but for many who work at home or in their communities. "I have a dissertation on this," Price said with a laugh. "When I think about leadership, it's doing the things that I need to do to show up the best that I can."

Price is an associate with Tilia Consulting, a firm that specializes in engagement, facilitation, and strategic communications, and also works at NAIT. Humber, Good Talk's other half (and owner of Tilia Consulting), said the group is its "own thing" but uses the Tilia infrastructure to "keep it out in the world."

The two formed Good Talk to exchange perspectives with others looking for connection. Part of the idea was to form a book club where no one had to read a specific book, and another was to fill a gap in connection they'd witnessed through their work at Tilia.

"It's an occupational hazard of our jobs — we're always asking folks around us about what's going on in their lives, about their thoughts, their experiences," Humber said. "One of the things that kept coming up, for me at least, was that folks around me were looking for structured spaces for community."

The June 7 event's theme is celebration, but Price and Humber said it's also about tracing threads through previous events' themes of joy, curiosity, creativity, courage, and change. Newcomers will learn what the collective is all about while returning attendees can draw connections between discussions thus far. Price and Humber also said Good Talk is a judgment-free zone. They want people to engage without fear or embarrassment.

"One of the things that Lindsay and I bonded over is that we don't like mayonnaise," said Price. It sounds odd at first, but Price said such banality can also create ease and form connections. The mayonnaise discussion "immediately elicits a response from people," she said. "People are either slathering that stuff all over everything or they hate it."

Two people holding notes in a coffee shop address an audience that is out of frame.

Lindsay Humber and Shannon Price founded Good Talk Collective based on an interest in leadership, a need to connect, and their experience working together at Tilia Consulting. The two host Good Talk's anniversary event on June 7 at YWCA Edmonton Cushing House. (Supplied)

The Edmonton region has plenty of networking groups, but Good Talk events are different. There's no agenda to swap cards, sell things, or get a leg or two up the corporate ladder. Humber said it's more about companionship and mutual encouragement — including for people whose primary work takes place in the home.

"Something that we don't talk about is caretaking responsibilities as work," she said. "We don't create space for caretakers to be supported and seen in the way that we do with paid work. Part of (the focus on in-home leadership) was as simple as we are parents, and we are facilitators, and we are having these conversations with our friends and other folks in our networks who are struggling with questions about parenting."

Above all, Good Talk's events are experiments that ask what happens when you put a few passionate people in a room.

"When we started this, Shannon and I were mostly wanting to meet our own needs," Humber said. "We wanted to have these heart-to-heart conversations with strangers, people we didn't know, about some of the things that were swirling in our minds. But we had no idea whether or not anyone else wanted any of this."

People did. Humber and Price host 12 to 24 attendees per event, but hope the anniversary fête is larger. They said Good Talkers come from an array of backgrounds, including municipal and provincial government staffers (many can expense the admission price as professional development, Humber pointed out).

"As people are becoming more aware of it, we're getting new people that we don't know or are not connected to," Price said (Good Talk events have just shy of a one-third repeat ticket buyer rate). "Now we're finding people are finding us on Eventbrite, and they're just looking for something. We had some folks that just moved into Edmonton (buy tickets), and they were looking to get to know other folks in the area."

Humber's consulting firm used to be eponymous. She retired the Lindsay Humber Consulting brand last year after taking stock of the value that associates like Price added to her firm. Yet when asked about what's next for Tilia, she cast her gaze backward to the We Belong in Jasper Place project that she helped bring to life during the self-titled days. Particularly, she's looking forward to the inaugural Jasper Place Arts Festival at Butler Memorial Park on June 8 at 11447 86 Street NW.

Good Talk's anniversary event kicks off just one day before that festival, at 6:30pm. YWCA Cushing House is at 10402 124 Street NW. Tickets are $49, but there's a deal available for anyone who buys two tickets. Travelling bookseller In Her Words Bookshop will be on hand for attendees in need of some reading material.

"Part of (the anniversary event) was making it bigger, encouraging people who have been a part of it to now bring their community into it," Price said. "We wanted to have a big party."