A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

Finding space to connect: 5 picks from The Riveter’s Amy Nelson

3 min
Amy Nelson interacts with Listening Tour participants in Columbus, OH. Photo Credit - Emma Kate Low
Amy Nelson interacts with Listening Tour participants in Columbus, OH.
Photo by Emma Kate Low
We’re in the middle of an epidemic of loneliness in this country, which makes it more important than ever to highlight ways for people to find connection. Evoke invited Amy Nelson, founder of The Riveter—a membership network of women and allies providing community, content, resources, and work and gathering spaces—to reflect on the importance of gathering spaces, and to share places she’s found community as a founder and busy working mom. Next it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments: What places, groups, or other resources help you feel a sense of belonging and connection to others?

There’s a real art to designing a space in ways that foster community connection and growth. One space I’ve heard great things about is Ethel’s Club, a new social and wellness club in Brooklyn that’s designed for and by young people of color. As their website states, “people of color are long overdue for a space that centers the whole of their identity and experiences.” Ethel’s Club offers its members daily programming intended to foster both personal and community growth, with an emphasis on lifting people’s creative energy. With over 4,000 people currently on its waitlist, founder Naj Austin is onto something.

Of course, when it comes to gathering spaces, I’m partial to the place I call home: The Riveter! The Riveter is a modern union of working women and allies, offering content, resources, workspaces and programming. With a membership network of thousands, we are committed to elevating the conversation and driving progress around gender equity in work. In addition to the co-working spaces we provide for women, we offer content, resources, and programming designed to elevate the conversation and drive progress around gender equity in work.
Speaking of online: The main reason I use social media today is that it provides a sense of community. I am part of several online groups—some specifically for female founders, others for working mothers—where thousands of women actively engage in discussions and provide support. One of my favorites is the Law Mamas Facebook group, a platform for lawyers who are mothers—as you might deduce from the name (lawyers are not known for their creativity). Law Mamas created a safe space for me when I went back to work after having my first daughter and had to navigate full-time lawyering and new parenthood. Even now that I have transitioned out of the legal world and welcomed three more daughters it continues to be a great source of community, connecting me with women around the world.
Connecting with parents closer to home has also been critical to my wellbeing as a mother, and I am also so thankful for the community I found with my local Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS) Group. I discovered PEPS when I was pregnant with my first daughter and benefited so much from having a place to share stories and talk about the challenges I was facing, like building my daughter’s sleep routine. When your entire day is devoted to caring for a baby, though absolutely magical in so many ways, can feel very isolating, being part of PEPS reminded me I was not alone. I eventually became a PEPS leader because I believe so much in the program. Some of my closest friends are moms I met in PEPS and it’s an automatic point of connection with other women I meet.
Exercise has been an important part of my routine for as long as I can remember. I played water polo and other sports growing up and made some of my best friends doing it. Having children definitely challenged my gym routine and required some adapting. I’m now a big fan of live group workout classes on my exercise bike because it provides the same community I would find at the gym without leaving the house – something that’s not often possible when you have to juggle childcare for four small kids! I also love yoga classes. It’s my go-to when traveling because it’s easy to find a nearby studio in a new city and feel a sense of belonging. The WW app has also been a community that’s really made a difference for me. It’s so much more than a way to track food. It’s a true community that offers support and camaraderie to achieve wellness goals.