Creating Community: Polis Launches in San Francisco With Fall Courses

stack of booksThe Polis adventure begins: a letter from founder, Mary Finn

I have spent the past year planning for the opening and launch of Polis. I talked with over 80 people from all different walks of life in one-on-one conversations (a skill I was trained in as a staffer on the Obama campaign in ’08. Who knew it would come in handy again!). I met with each person as an attempt to test my assumptions about the need for the type of adult learning community that Polis could provide. I’ve read dozens of business books and gone to loads of small business workshops throughout the past year. No doubt, all of this preparation and data has been helpful.

But Polis is primarily built on the foundation of a gut instinct- now more than ever adults crave community in the “real” world.

Polis is not a new idea.

Salons have been around for hundreds of years. Yet, the traditional intellectual’s salon tended to be elite and undemocratic.

Liberal arts colleges have taught seminar classes in Socratic style since the inception of this education model.

Community-based adult education in the liberal arts is also nothing new to the Bay Area.

In fact, I was fortunate to be part of an incredibly vibrant community called Symposium (a combination book store and seminar program for Great Books that was in Hayes Valley for a number of years). There is an active off shoot of the Symposium brick-and-mortar experience can now be found through the Symposium Great Books Institute where rich conversation happens in seminars with students all over the world. Check them out. I am in awe of the community they’ve built and maintained.

So, why Polis and why now?

I have had this gnawing feeling for the past few years that something is missing from my busy life. With the rise of technology and social networks as the primary force for creating and sustaining community, I find myself yearning for an in-person adult community of learners. I find myself wanting to meet new and different types of people than I typically interact with. I want explore big ideas but I don’t have the time (or money) to commit to a semester-long university course.  Through my conversations last year in preparation for launching Polis, I know that this feeling resonates with many other busy, working adults.

Your life is busy, but is it full?

This is the essential question that Polis is designed to help to answer. Polis will be a community of busy adults who seek more meaning in their day-to-day lives. My goal in creating Polis is to hold on to the best parts of the liberal arts and sciences and community-building experiences that I have been a part of and let go of the elements that a working adult just cannot sustain. I have designed Polis with the busy, working adult in mind.

I invite you to try one of our classes in this experiment to build a new (and hopefully long-lasting) community.

All are welcome.


Categories: Community Building


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3 Comments on “Creating Community: Polis Launches in San Francisco With Fall Courses”

  1. September 20, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Hello All,
    I’m thrilled that POLIS is underway–an antidote for so much that’s problematic in our modern lives (too much to go into here).

    In honor of the launch, here’s my most fitting quote (by W.H. Murray, expanding on a Goethe couplet):

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

    It’s fitting for Ms. Finn who started this endeavor, and fitting for all students who partake. —-Steve J (writing from the UK)

  2. September 20, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    Wonderful, Mary. And best of luck with the launch!!

  3. September 20, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Reblogged this on Polis.

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