“How do I get started bringing people interested in Stoicism together in the place where I live?” People ask me this question so often that I’ve decided to write a very simple guide. There are three basic steps you can follow:
1. Create an Online Community
Generally these are on Facebook, which seems to work well, although it might not be everyone’s choice. Join an existing Facebook Stoicism group for your country or city. If there isn’t one, try creating one. For example, I recently helped create Stoicism Netherlands and there are Facebook groups for Stoics in London, Toronto, and other major cities.
These groups can take time to grow but eventually they will take on a life of their own, especially if you keep sharing appropriate content. It’s important to have ground rules, though, and not to allow personal abuse or off-topic (spammy) posts – too much of those will cause people to leave and prevent your group from flourishing. Share appropriate content and ask questions to stimulate discussion. Once you have a large enough online community, it will be easier to organize other events.
A great resource for your group to start work on would be a list of books on Stoicism in your language. Goodreads Listopia allows you to do it really easily and it’s very helpful to new members.
2. Organize Face-to-Face Meetups
Most people use Meetup to do this. For example, the Toronto Stoics, where I live, have about 1,400 people, making it the largest Stoicism meetup group in the world. See if the Stoic Fellowship already have meetups in your area. They can also give you information on people interested in starting one, or ideas for how to run the meetings.
Organizing face-to-face meetups probably requires more patience and skill than just setting up a Facebook discussion group. However, eventually these groups also begin to take on a life of their own. You can base each meeting around a chapter from a book on Stoicism, making it a little bit like running a book club. It’s important to have several people who can help so that if you’re unavailable or can’t continue to attend, someone else can take over in your stead.
3. Organize a Stoicon-x Event
Every year since 2012, Modern Stoicism has organized a Stoicon conference, which moves to a different city each year. We also organize and encourage others to organize smaller “Stoicon-x” events, mini-conferences, in different cities around the world. Often once the main Stoicon conference has visited a city it’s easier to organize a Stoicon-x conference the following year because many of the same people will attend.
In a large city like New York or Toronto, even these smaller conferences might attract 100-150 people, fairly easily. Organizing a conference can be quite a responsibility, though. Modern Stoicism can offer advice. Choosing experienced speakers can help. It’s good to start small with perhaps a half-day event. Authors tend to be obliged to promote their books so they have an incentive to respond to requests to speak at events like these. However, in some parts of the world it can be easier than others to find appropriate speakers. (People tend to be more likely to buy tickets if they recognize the names of some of the speakers.)
We’ve found that “lightning talks” work well where individuals are invited to speak for five minutes one after another on different topics. This is a good way of attracting and testing out new speakers. It also means that even if you’re organizing a half-day event your audience will get to hear a lot of talks, and experience a variety of speakers.