Joshua Jordison explains that the best conferences and communities have essentially become “Coachella for professionals.” “What I mean is that people no longer attend Coachella primarily to listen to music. They do it for the ‘gram;’ they go to be viewed by others.” Though Jordison is diplomatic and doesn’t “name names,” it’s difficult not to see his point when looking at Davos (especially when you’re just as likely to read headlines like “Record private jet flights into Davos as world leaders arrive for climate talks” as you are to read news about significant discussions or policies resulting from the conclave).
Jordison, along with speaker and author Wes Chapman, is the co-founder of The Human Gathering, an ultra-discreet members-only private community that brings together some of the world’s most successful and influential individuals to address global systemic issues such as human trafficking and homelessness, institutional racism, and the global food crisis, among others.
In its initial form, THG would host biannual weekend gatherings for members at private properties in idyllic settings such as Malibu, where attendees could engage in discussions about global issues, network with like-minded peers, and take time to unwind, reflect, and rejuvenate in nature. Jordison and Chapman have recently acquired a private homestead in Idaho in order to provide a sort of permanent clubhouse for members to use on their own and for gatherings.
Similar to the community itself, the weekend’s opulence is not what distinguishes it for members who attend these events (although a private ranch, a chef, and other amenities make it a luxurious experience). Nor is it unique because of the caliber of attendees (though the group includes CEOs and leaders of major Fortune 500 companies, as well as fireside chats with Sheri Salata, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, and Bill Burton, Obama’s former Deputy Press Secretary).
Thanks to careful planning and thoughtful, intentional execution, Jordison and Chapman have created an environment where members must set aside their type-A tendencies, go with the flow, and put their trust in the founders’ hands. This is what sets it apart from anything else attendees are likely to encounter in their daily lives, let alone at these other name-brand conferences.
The Human Gathering’s relative confidentiality has prevented it from becoming a social calendar status symbol, which is enhanced by the fact that no itinerary is provided in advance and all participants are expected to interact with one another as equals. Jordison declares, “We do not bow to our members.” “I don’t care how potent or impressive a person appears to be. Within our community, everyone is treated equally. There is no perceived or actual social hierarchy between our members.” In addition, they do not disclose the identities of their members and, as of 2019, have ceased taking photographs at meetings.
While these large-scale gatherings are on hold due to the pandemic, and Jordison and Chapman are re-imagining how these retreats could become both more intimate and more frequent in the future, the community continues to thrive as members maintain their connections and relationships throughout the year, as opposed to just for a weekend.
PAPER spoke with Jordison about the mysterious and unorthodox community he founded, as well as how our surreal times have brought members closer together than ever before.