How to grow your non-monogamous community with Miss E

Minka: Hi, everybody and welcome back to Minka Guides. This month we’re talking about how you can grow your ENM community (or your non-monogamous community) and I am so delighted to have my friend and fellow ENM Fam London co-founder here with me today.

Welcome Miss E. Tell everybody about yourself.

How to grow your non-monogamous community CREDIT Miss E

Miss E (she/they): Hello. Thank you so much for having me. Awesome to be with you.

So, my name is Miss E. I am a long time ENM. Probably since high school. However, I’ve only really come to identify the language and community with that in the last probably eight or so years. But I’ve been practicing without knowing it and sometimes miserably for much longer, since my teens.

So, it’s been really important to me to be able to find a sense of community, to find a sense of identity. Find others who I can really understand like, “Oh wait, there’s this thing and I’m not just terrible at monogamy or relationships or a total dick.” 

Minka: Exactly.

Miss E: Yeah, but I actually have this other way of relating and I think because it’s not a normalized way… it’s not a social norm. You never hear about it. Nobody’s providing models or examples of that. 

So, that’s a little bit about my background. 

My pronouns are she/they. I identify as bisexual, queer, gender fluid, and a variety of other wonderful rad things. But I’ll save that for when you come to an ENM Fam event hopefully.

Minka: Yes, exactly

So, the purpose of this chat is to talk about ENM Fam London, which is coming up to its second anniversary this month (when this video comes out).

But also we’re creating a resource here because we want to share the knowledge of how people like Miss E have grown this community over the last two years. 

So, if you’re someone who’s thinking about starting an event in your local area, we’re hoping that this will provide some insight into how we’ve managed to expand and grow this event into something that attracts… how many people to each event now?

Miss E: I mean we’re pretty steady at like 200-300 at each event. 

So yeah, pinching myself. I don’t think we expected that when we started it. However, it just goes to show what’s possible.

Minka: Yeah, and that happens what? Every two months now? Yes.

Miss E: If you build it, they will come.

Minka: I want to give you kudos for where kudos should be given.

You are the person who came up with the idea of calling the event ‘ENM Fam’. I wanted to ask, where did that idea come from for you?

Miss E: I’m a community builder in my professional life and I understand human behaviour: what brings people together, what builds social capital, and it is a sort of marketing. Not about marketing for the sake of marketing in a gross sense but really thinking about what is the image that we want people to feel or sense.

And you need something that’s going to be really catchy. I think at first we were calling it non-monogamy drinks or non-monogamy social or something like that. Which is great, it does what it says on the tin.

But I think that all of us founders really had a much greater sense of what we wanted to build. Who we wanted to attract and the ethos that we wanted to be the driving force behind that.

For me, when you think about it, how do you treat your family? How do you relate? What do you contribute/bring/build/connect?

It was really about creating more of a catchy sort of phrase that we could use. That would get people’s attention and allow that sentiment to resonate authentically. 

I think that that that for me is ENM Fam. Because I wanted people to come and feel like they were a part of something. That this isn’t something that you come and you take from, or that you do, or that you experience but that you are a member. That you are a part of, that you are important to being here. You are why we are here. 

I’m not doing this for my own ego… I mean, part somewhat myself but as a member of the family, right? Like we’re taking care of each other.

Minka: Exactly.

Miss E: I want people to step into that space with that head space. You know that you’re coming and you’re going to be welcome. That it feels like a big family reunion every time and I think we did. We’ve kind of blended that.

Minka: It does yeah. People started talking about “the fam” straight away. Talking about it as their fam. So, honestly, that was such a great community-building element to it right from the start. So, well done on that.

Miss E: Yeah, and it’s very chosen fam, right? That’s what it is. I think that when we first conceptualized talking about, “Let’s do this thing,” it was about, “Hey, how are we with the people that we hang out with? What does that circle look like? Do we have spaces that feel and look like that?” There wasn’t any and I think again it’s that chosen fam vibe.

Minka: Yeah, absolutely.

So, on top of that excellent concept for the name and how that brought the sense of non-monogamous community together…

…what do you think we did at the start that made people start consistently turning up every six weeks in such huge numbers? 

At the start, 200-300 people just suddenly came along.

Miss E: Yeah, well, I mean we had a really fantastic artist. I forget… Do you remember their name? 

Minka: Yes, my goodness I’m having a total blank.

Miss E: Let’s link it in the bio.

Minka: Yes, we will. [note: the illustrator is Fi McG]

Queer guide to polyamorous London | Minka Guides
Our original promotional imagery, illustrated by Fi McG.

Miss E: Because honestly I 100% like credit that first imagery as well. Again, like with the name (even though we didn’t have that name in the beginning) but to really let people know what this was. There was this great sort of cartoon-like drawn imagery…

Minka: Illustration, yeah.

Miss E: Yeah, which was amazing because like I felt like everybody who looked at this picture of people relating and hanging out could see themselves. Or at least this was a picture of the community that this chosen fam we all knew and had but weren’t finding in the non-monogamy space.

I think that that was a really big part of people going, “Wait. Oh my.” It just looked really different. We had trans, there were hairy legs. There was all body positivity. It was like anything and everything that we wanted to create in the diversity of an inclusive space. That we were hoping to create. That we felt in our chosen fam. I think that that image captured people’s attention immediately because you don’t see that right off the bat for a lot of events.

Minka: No.

Miss E: And while we have changed over to an ENM Fam logo, I do credit that in the beginning when we weren’t known to help people be like, “Oh, I want to go. That looks like a space for me and that I want to be in.”

Minka: Exactly.

Miss E: So, I think that that was a really big one.

Also really important, something that we continuously do is having a grounding session, a speech session. I don’t mean to be corny about it or waste people’s time to be centre stage. It’s not even about that. 

It’s really about how I want people to understand the ethos and feel something every time they come. Because when you feel something you keep coming back. I think if you just have a space and you just have a social and people come, like yeah they might feel something if they connected with people or not. 

But if you set the tone and really speak about why are we here? What are we hoping to create? Making people feel seen as a part of something and appreciated and valued. But also set the tone for, “Hey, this is not a space that you just come and take from or enjoy or experience but it’s something that we’re building.” 

That your participation and presence matter and what you bring. Just being here matters; you matter. I think when people feel that and know that then there’s a different intention they bring to this space which sets a nice vibe. That fam vibe again of really intentionally relating, intentionally trying to connect in a way that isn’t cruisy. 

It’s really about, “Let’s be part of and build something. We don’t have this space and let’s do this together.” Because I alone, as a team alone, like any one of us, we couldn’t do it. It’s not about us. We all have to show up for it to be sick right? So, I need people to feel that part of that.

Minka: Yeah, and to jump in quickly. 

For anyone who hasn’t been to an ENM Fam event before, I know that the format’s relatively simple but run people through what to expect. 

So that they know what that looks like.

Miss E: Yeah, so we have people greeting at the door. We have volunteers who are… first of all, we’re all volunteers, and not to say that every event has to be like that. But, again as part of this community ethos, it’s about giving back and what everybody brings to the table. 

So, it’s not for profit. We’re not trying to make a profit. We might charge a little bit to cover costs. But we donate all the proceeds back to a cause that’s important to the community if we do have any extra. Or we invest it back into the event. 

We have these volunteers there who are again, showing up to donate their time and energy, making sure people feel comfortable, greet people. There are people who maybe feel a little awkward or look a little bit lost – they can reach out and try to find those people and help introduce them to people they know. So, we’re really active and helping connect people if they don’t know people. Sort of creating that again, warm family reunion vibe.

ENM Bingo Card
The ENM Bingo Card from our first ENM Fam London event. Our original icebreaker!

Then we also have maybe an hour in, a bit of that intro grounding speech. Talking about what it’s all about because there’s always going to be a few new people. Then we usually introduce an icebreaker activity. So, we always come up with some way that helps people to break the ice. I think we started with like bingo but we’ve had a variety. It could be two truths and a lie and inviting people to challenge themselves to meet five new people in that way. Not people you know so that is a conversation starter. Because I’m super awks, like I don’t do well in big groups. 

That gives people permission to come up and talk to somebody new. Everybody knows that that’s going to happen and is part of that so that. It breaks down those cliques and social barriers and gives you an opportunity to ease into it kind of naturally. You hear somebody talk about something cool and you could naturally flow from there. I get stuck so often, never getting to my fifth person because I have these wonderful conversations with all of these new people along the way. 

We also set up signs everywhere. We take over a pub and change over their toilet signs to genderneutral toilets. Again, creating a space that people feel comfortable with.

Then we also send out feedback forms. We do them a bit less now that it’s like up and running. But that was so huge to us in the beginning because you know for us by us, right? So if something’s not working or you have a great idea and we didn’t think of it, please let us know. We want to try to adjust it and make that you know fam vibe and make it work for everybody involved.

You’re never going to please everybody all the time. It’s really hard, especially when there are such limited options for spaces that can accommodate that or are willing to accommodate it. We still have problems at our venue with the music being too loud, which can be really difficult for neurospicy people and we always feel terrible about that. We try but I think that that’s the thing: where is your intention? Just do the best that you can.

Minka: Exactly.

Miss E: We also create an area where a volunteer will sit so people know that they can come there and hang out and get away or meet people if they’re super lost. So that’s another thing that we do.

We have armbands so that anyone who’s volunteering at the event they’re easily identifiable as well. So yeah, all of those different things that we do, and then we also have the ENM Fam calendar. 

Minka: Yeah, so I was going to jump in and ask you about that because the feedback form was obviously a really good tool for helping grow the event. But obviously, since we set up the event the community has grown beyond even our event.

Miss E: Yeah.

Minka: Which has been amazing. 

So what are some of the tools that you use to grow the non-monogamous community?

Miss E: Yeah, and I would say the number one tool is empathy. 100% the reason that we have the calendar is because I was like, “What do I want?” Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and being new to London and not being able to find my community and struggling for so long and going through so many different crowds and scenes and things, which is fine but I wasted a lot of time like in places that weren’t quite what I was looking for. 

It’s such a big city. It’s so hard to know where to go where to start, and where are my people. What can I try? There’s no one-stop-shop resource for that you know, especially in a big city like London. 

I found this polyamory calendar app where you could share schedules and I was like, “Oh, there’s a public calendar option as well. People can join the calendar,” and I was like, let me start finding all of the events that I like to go to that I know are sex-positive, body positive, ENM related. And let’s enter that all into one space. So that if people have those questions like, “Where do you go?” 

It’s all because I’m super anal. Color-coded so it’s like this is a social. This is an ENM-specific event. This is another community-friendly event, an educational workshop, and a sex-positive space. Things like that and so they’re all kind of there.

Minka: Exactly.

Other people from in the community have gone on to create their own events related to the community and that’s on there so people can find… what is it? A vegan potluck, a book club, and a poker night. 

Miss E: rollerskating! 

Yeah, and that’s something we’ve really encouraged because we had really deep conversations about what it is that we are really enabling and offer as a volunteer service, right? I don’t have all day to do all of the things that the community might need, so we decided from a very early stage that we would be that echo chamber. That we would be that promoter. That we would be that connector and really kind of try to serve as that glue. That way for people to figure out what they wanted to do.

So the calendar came about from that. Again with the grounding speeches, we always say like, “Hey, if you don’t want to come all the way to this part of London, create your own event. We are not the be-all and end-all. 

If there are so many events that nobody attends ours anymore, we’ve done our job.

I don’t have any ego in this game. I just want non-monogamy to be normalized and for people to easily find people of like-mind that they can relate with, and find support from.

So yeah, so we encouraged people to do that, to think about what would you like and like we’ll put that out in our mailers. If there are new things coming up on the grounding speeches, we’ll let people know like, “Hey there’s this stuff,” and be as much of a support as we can. I want a million of these socials, like whatever people need.

Minka: Yes, and you see that on the ENM Fam Instagram account that you’re constantly promoting.

So there have been other people from our community go on to create other kinds of ENM and polyamory events in London, which is amazing and is, as you say, what we wanted.

Miss E: Yeah.

Minka: On Instagram, you’re always shouting out those events. So it’s very much all about that and that’s incredible. Well done.

Also, just to touch on that about the calendar. If anyone’s looking to find the calendar, I assume you can find it through links on ENM Fam Instagram?

Miss E: Yeah.

Minka: And then also there are all the details on Minka Guides Polyamory London blog. There are full details about how to find the calendar and how to join it. All of that, which is also a helpful resource which you helped contribute to as well.The person in the know.

Miss E: But honestly, it’s been growing and growing. The number of events, the number of things, the number of people willing to now step out and be like, “Hey there wasn’t this thing and I’m gonna go and do it now. I’m gonna create this other kind of event. I should update that for you.” But that’s what’s great, right? And again is something that we tried to promote through our Instagram page to bring more attention so that those people can be successful.

Minka: Yes exactly.

Do you think looking back now at how you’ve grown the community over the last two years and how successful it has been…

Is there anything you would do differently? Have there been specific challenges that you faced?

Miss E: I mean, to be honest, it’s taken on a life of its own. From the very beginning, we just didn’t expect it to be this big and I wish I could say that there was something that we could have done differently. But I’m still pinching myself that whatever the hell it is that we are doing seems to be working.

I think the key reason why it has worked is that we knew our strengths. When you conceptualized like, “Hey, we should do this,” it was like who’s a promoter? That’s where you got me and you know that I’m gonna be good in front of a crowd and I’m gonna be that outgoing person and who are the different people? You’re like Planny Fanny and you do all the comms and all of that stuff. Jax as well is amazing because she’s similarly good on the promoting side and has a whole other community and has been running Blackfluent Polyamory Hub and is able to tap into that community.

So I think that was the intentionality. It’s like what does our chosen fam look like that we’re not seeing at any event? Who are the right people to represent and talk to that group of people to further inspire them to join and want to be a part of this?

I think that being authentic the whole time. We are 100% ourselves. 100% our personalities in every way and I think that people want to be a part of that and what we have and what we are. Because we are just us and very humble but equally human. Flawed, vulnerable at times. I think that resonates with people.

So, even if you were going to this, it doesn’t mean you have to have as big of an event as we have. But it’s like who are you or who do you have around you? What are you trying to create? Who is the most authentic and proficient representative to take on that lead, to be that person right? 

If you’re super introverted, great. Maybe you want to do something with introverts. How do you speak to that group? How do you stay authentic to yourself? I think where things might get awkward or not work out as if you’re stepping outside of what is truly authentic to who you are and what’s comfortable for you. I think from the beginning we’ve done that.

You told me in the very beginning, “On the day I cannot be the front man, I am going to feel anxious,” and we’re like, “Cool. We got you.” But you were all about the planning and doing the comms. Stuff that’s not my strong suit.

Minka: Yes, exactly and which is why we always recommend people never create these events on their own. I know that’s harder in smaller cities because you might feel like, “Oh I don’t have other people that want to step up and do this with me.” But honestly, find at least one other person to run these events with you because it can’t come down to one person. One person can’t do everything to run these events. I think that’s been the key to our success.

Looking forward, after we’ve just been through these two years… 

How do you see the community, not just ENM Fam London but the whole non-monogamous community in London growing over the next couple of years?  

Erin hosting ENM Fam London CREDIT Mariana Feijó
Miss E giving one of her grounding speeches at an event. Image credit: Mariana Feijó

What do you have ideas about? What you would like to do? Do you have predictions you’d like to make? Things you’d like to see?

Miss E: I mean I just see it really becoming more and more talked about. Normalized. You can see that in the number of different kinds of events, the number of talks or some great (like Open Relating) therapists who are coming forward and being really active in the community with a voice. 

I think that’s really great and again all of us are really stepping up and giving back. They all contribute and give freebies to our community when we have raffles or we do like fun nights or you know donation spots. In that way, we’re promoting them as well and then they’re helping to support our event and our community.

It seems when I came here, it was so hard to find or there were maybe one or two little pocket events. Now when you look for something you find it. But I do just see so many people coming up and talking about it. I can now talk about it in my workspace, which I don’t think was possible 5-10 years ago. People would have been like what? 

Minka: Oh my God no. Exactly. It would have been considered completely taboo. 

Miss E: Yeah and I feel like more and more people are coming out and we have a lot of (for better or for worse) TV shows about it now. It’s starting to become normalized in mainstream dialogue. I think the more that we can do that, the more that we can create space for that and be unabashed, open and unashamed. 

Look I’m not coming for your monogamy but did you fall into it? Or did you consider options and then choose it? They’re very different things and I think it’s about creating a space where people can feel that there’s an opportunity to at least step in and explore. And I think that’s what the community building is about. 

Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe you’re new to this. But like how do you know unless you come and talk with people and meet others and figure out how to do it because there is no manual. It’s hard to find that but I do see that growing.

Minka: Exactly.

Miss E: And I think that would be another thing I forgot to mention. Very early on, we did have some people dropping into the events who were not the ones, you know? Not the one in terms of non-monogamous but kind of pervy and a bit non-consensual. It was not our ideal and so I guess that would be one of the things I would have done differently. Had our like code of conduct on the front end, having our community values, our principles. Have that really clear upfront.

We say this is not a cruise space. You’re not coming here to date. I mean, of course, loads of people meet date and have a great time. That’s on you but that’s not the intention. This is what we want to see. Setting the tone again further with come and bring yourself. Create other spaces. Think about what you are intentionally trying to create and the connections that you’re trying to foster and be part of that community-building effort. I think it’s it’s important to be transparent and clear about that.

Minka: Exactly. One hundred per cent. And on that note, if anyone is interested and you’re in London then this month is the second anniversary of ENM Fam London, and the August parties are always the best ones. The weather’s good. There are like 400 people in that beer garden. The music is playing, and the vibes are incredible. 

So yeah, if you want to come along, (I’m just checking) the date is the 10th of August. If you check and there are no tickets available, always keep checking back because people tend to return those tickets really up until that day. So, I definitely recommend checking that out.

But Miss E. Thank you so much.

If people want to find you online, how can they find you? If you want to be found.

Miss E:  You can find me but Instagram just nuked my account so, what is my new one. Let me look that shit up because I created four and they nuked all of them.

Minka: Ok, what’s your new one?

Miss E: Now it’s on Instagram

Minka: We’ll link everything, whether you’re watching this on Instagram or Youtube or on the blog. 

Either way, thank you so much for sharing your insights, your wealth of advice, your experience and how much you’ve done to grow this non-monogamous community. It’s just phenomenal and I am grateful to you and I know loads of other people are as well.

Miss E: Right back at you and you a big shout out because again I cannot do this alone. It’s not about me. You are such a huge part of this. Jax, Ka and all of our volunteers like incredible. 

It’s such ah, you know smorgasbord of amazing humans and that’s why this has been a success. It’s not down to any one person and that is my future vision for this. We don’t want it to be a cult of personality for the founders. 

Minka: Exactly.

Miss E: It’s about devolving more and more to the community itself. What do they want to see? So getting more volunteers in, asking them what they want, and allowing them to set up their own committees, contribute to setting what kind of vibes and entertainment activities go on or icebreaker activities. Plus, volunteer coordination and event coordination on the day.

So, I think that that’s my vision for this as well. That it’s more and more run by more of us.

Minka: Perfect yes, exactly because all we want to do is be a big lovely collective fam. So shout out to our fam. We love you all. And I hope you all have a great time on the 10th of August. Sending you my love.

Miss E: Bye!

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