This is an excerpt from Empower: How to Co-Create the Future. The full 200+ page book is available by donation!

“People join cults not to conform but to become more individual”

-Douglas Atkin

excerpt from book

David Passiak: There’s a quote by Margaret Meade that you absolutely love and reference in every presentation, and it is also one of my all time favorites: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

When I think about the power of small groups, one thing that comes to mind is Meetup where you served as Chief Community Officer. Could you tell us about the power of small groups and some of the lessons you learned building Meetup’s global community?

Douglas Atkin: I love that quote because there comes a point where people realize that they need other people to pursue their passion or effect change. They can’t be as effective on their own as they can be with a group of like-minded individuals. Whether it is a small thing like cleaning up a local park or a big thing like ousting a corrupt leader, you need help from others and the strength of mutual support.

This is basically how it works: If a community is strong, it’s not just the power of like-minded people together, that’s like 50% of what represents the community’s power. The other 50% is about the interaction between those individuals. Relationships form when individuals interact. You want to support these people because you like them or they’re important or they need help. Those feelings become mutual and form the bonds of real communities.

DOUGLAS ATKIN is Global Head of Community at Airbnb; Co-Founder and Board Chair of, a Global Movement for the Sharing Economy; Founder of the glueproject, a blog and venture about social glue; and Board Member of, the world’s largest LGBT movement. Previously, he was Co-Founder of Purpose, an organization that mobilizes millions for social change, and Partner and Chief Community Officer at Meetup—the world’s largest network of communities.

Douglas is also a former brand strategist and partner at leading NY and London agencies and the author of The Culting of Brands: How to Turn Customers into True Believers, a book about how to build cult-like community around almost anything. He lives in San Francisco with his partner, Matthew, and two beagles.