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Member Spotlight | Megan Haas

Updated: Jan 12


Interview


How do you see your role in the world?

I see my role in the world as supporting the health of humanity in ways micro and macro. This means actively questioning and challenging the impact of systems that have been designed for our societies and envisioning solutions to build more purposeful, organic, and humane systems. I do this by developing businesses that are rooted in community, and communities that are rooted in culture.

Cultural development grows by sewing foundational values into a business which nurtures a collective sense of belonging, structure, purpose, and hope. In this way, the community is not built solely to be a product but cultivated to function as a dimension of the natural world, with everything interconnected as a means towards evolving and surviving. This is why I spell Kinnected with a ‘Ki’ — to represent kinship and kinesis.

Kinnected was conceived fifteen years ago as an antidote to a future zeitgeist, one where fast propagating technology would deform our global society.Vulnerability to misinformation, normalization of violence, and now a massive breakdown around global health — all of it is finally forcing us to look at new paradigms for both online community culture and for prioritizing the health of our human behavior.

Each year I’ve been weaving elements into Kinnected’s design as the need has grown more crucial for a free, global community health system that will guide people in sensitive and empathetic directions, frontline intergenerational stories from across cultures, innovate care models, and reduce healthcare costs. Kinnected is also addressing how to diminish physician burnout, legitimize different medical systems, and normalize the relationship between mental, emotional, and physical health.


What are some of the resources that have helped you the most on your path?

The communities I was raised in sent me out into the world with a full toolbox. I went to school each day for fourteen years on a Rudolph Steiner, fellowship driven community. There was a school, a biodynamic farm, a care home, a forest, a homeopathic doctor, and a guesthouse for visiting scholars. It was a multifunctional community aimed at supporting the whole and based on the interdependent rhythms of the natural world, because we cannot thrive as physical beings without the harmony and respect of and for nature. The search for self was valued and engaged through music, symbolism, and ideas.

At home, my family spent summers in a music community that brought a wealth of traditions, stories, and songs into my life. When I began to travel the world on my own, I was welcomed into far-flung places because of the shared recognition and importance of keeping musical traditions alive for celebration, growth, and healing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was raised in the Quaker community with a deep respect for silence. Quakers have no pastor or minister, instead, they believe that we’re all ministers, responsible for our inner truth, and quietly in service to the care of the community. Quaker values such as ‘the pursuit of truth no matter where it leads’, and ‘lack of coercion’, became my personal and professional values.

Health events in our lives can become some of our most impactful resources.

At age fourteen I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. A fourteen-inch, seven-pound, stainless steel rod guided me into healthy adulthood. My parents were completely open with me that this was a life-altering decision, and they felt it was important for me to take ownership of it and felt I should choose the doctor and the method of the surgery myself. This ignited a lifelong sense of self-health advocacy that’s led to my current path with Kinnected.


What are your biggest challenges around gender roles as a woman at work? How did you try to overcome them?

As someone who is moving a mission forward, ultimately, it’s my responsibility to invite the people whose life experiences and ability to create will bring good health and collaboration to the culture of the company and feel at home in its value system.

When interpersonal challenges arise, I must become centered in myself, as a person, and balance the situation. I live with the dichotomy of having a spine that’s structured around a long, hard piece of steel, next to a heart that’s deeply relational. The intention and inquiry that drives me as a person through challenge and growth reflect this theme: How do we harness the firm, unyielding, and solid part of something, with flexibility and an intuitive, gentle, intelligence? Conceiving or ‘mothering’ a company is a progressive process that reaches beyond gender roles.

I’ve met women and men throughout my life who’ve defied gender in supportive and non-supportive ways. That being said, the people who are mostly in direct relationship with me, including mentors and my team at Kinnected, are primarily, women.


What kind of advice would you give to women in your profession?

Life happens through us, not to us. It’s ok to ask for help. Have the courage to approach those you feel a connection to. The least they can do is say is no. Do not judge people on their looks or their financial abilities. Exercise your intuition and common sense together, and then go with the quietest loud voice. Don’t waste time worrying what other people think about you or your work. Look to the natural world for reflections of how interconnected we all are and should be. Depth requires digging. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

How do you keep up and absorb information? What do you read and what sites do you visit?

We are so vulnerable to whatever is put in front of us. I try to unplug from unimportant information as much as I can unless it makes me laugh. I definitely crave comedy, always.

I participate in very few online communities. I see less value in products and way more value in the natural world. I try to combine my tech with physicality as much as possible. If I watch a movie, I try to stretch or do some form of pseudo yoga at the same time. I take long walks and listen to music, autobiographies, or to the ‘Daily podcast’ from the New York Times, which is a great reflection on a single news item. I also make sure to walk without headphones, so I catch the rare moment of someone playing the piano through an open window, or the sound of the rain or the wind. Or just to be aware and watch my back.

I’ve totally lost my taste for fiction in the last seven years. When there’s time, I read long-form essays and articles about the brain, body, and heart. I’m fascinated by the interior life and how to manage it.

Ester Perel is brilliant at breaking down a vast spectrum of emotions into bite-size pieces. John O’Donohue’s lectures are the perfect guide for philosophical warmth and comfort. He has a way of resetting everything back to its proper place.

I have deep roots in New York City, so my entire adult life there’s been a constantly multiplying pile of New Yorker magazines by my bed, full of great articles and lovingly sly references to my favorite city.

In terms of internal absorption, as a visually-oriented person, I spend a lot of time finding solutions by arranging and moving concepts for Kinnected in my head.

If I dig deep enough and then wait a day or two, I can count on information rising to the surface. Time and space are the best companions to information.

How do you see your role in building this community? And is there anything else you want to add that you think would be helpful for us to know as we are building this community?

I see my role in this and any other online community, including Kinnected, as supporting people in transforming their relationship to technology.

We are at a crucial crossroads where humanity must be designed around technology instead of the other way around. In order to do this we need more communities that are built around nourishment, home and belonging.

H2H is unique in innovative ways, one of them being that upon joining you’re personally welcomed by women from around the world. That’s such a great feeling. In the remote world, being a good host, and designing around global guidance is essential, especially at this moment where we’re naturally bonded by a collective health experience. I feel that people are aware of and watching over each other’s countries in a protective way that they normally don’t, so this is a wonderful excuse to be curious about each other’s lives, habits, and rituals.

It’s a great moment to ask ourselves how we can clear out old growth and plant new seeds? How do we replace top-down assumptions with a deeper understanding of how to bring value to each other, across geographical space? What are the most interesting ways to invite and reintroduce people to authentic connection and humane, purpose-built technology when they’ve been seasoned to social media platforms and commercialized apps? And how can we use this knowledge to harness significant cross-cultural opportunities on H2H to create action items, small and large, and translate them into the real world?

I would love to see a live, in-person summit happen one day. Or be matched each week with another person in the global community and see how we can uplift each other’s efforts and then report back about it, collaboratively.


What were the biggest adjustments or transformations you’ve made or observed because of COVID?

I’ve been grateful for the societal norms and bulwarks that have held, as well as those that have crumbled. Some of my connections had infrastructures that deepened, while other connections drifted.

The world is resetting itself and that’s an opportunity for clarity. I’ve been amazed by the collective emotional capacity of the global family in the face of massive suffering, and it’s confirmed my long-held belief that compassion, innovation, and common sense come from the actions of regular everyday citizens and are the best hope for us to create positive change.

As for the US government, their unwillingness to risk, even at this crucial moment, even a moment of solidarity in the face of so much loss and change is truly unconscionable.

My physical work routine didn’t change too much because I work from home with a remote team. Feeding the soul of the company has been more difficult. Our hope to uplift the lives of elders in care homes, specifically, is far more urgent. A welcome surprise has been the synergy of meeting new and life-changing peers remotely that have now become integral to Kinnected.

There have been hard decisions around education. Unlike more progressive countries, parents in the US were faced with the unmanageable paradox of how to navigate working with a remote school. Together with a small group of parents, the summer was spent building a classroom into my backyard garage so our kids could have a dedicated learning space. We found a tutor so they wouldn’t be staring into a screen all day. Our families formed a tight bubble, and the safety negotiations have been harrowing as has building trust, but the end result is kids that are happy, healthy, and have retained a love of learning.

In my neighborhood, I see the effects of deacceleration. People are walking and talking together more, instead of alone. On my evening walks the most amazing cooking smells are coming from houses that used to be silent and dark.

I’ve missed traveling across the ocean, and I haven’t seen my family in a year. Now, going into the deep wintertime feels like an extra-long adagio that will take emotional hibernation and reflection to get through to the next movement and our continuing desire for transformation as a world community.


Bio


Megan Haas lives in Seattle, WA, and is the founder of Kinnected.org, a free, equitable, network, uniting the global community to redefine self-health. Megan has been developing companies for 25 years. She has also helped other companies expand into meaningful relationships with their customer communities. She writes about health, community culture, and technology on Medium. To hear more about the origins of Kinnected, you can watch Megan’s presentation on Kinnected at Politico, in Amsterdam, 2019: https://vimeo.com/375023105

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