Curating the community is both the most delightful and the most torturous aspect of running The Hot Breakfast.
On the one hand, it is carte blanche to hunt down interesting, purposeful people in London and to understand what it is that they are doing, what drives them and how their work might be supported. If you have any curiosity about the direction that our society might be heading, or interest in human psychology, or desire to dabble in different worlds, this cannot be anything other than fascinating.
At the same time, it throws up all sorts of knotty issues. To what extent is our assessment about whether someone is a good fit for the community over-shadowed by personal biases and unconscious prejudices? Or is it a legitimate judgement that has been practised and honed by years of hosting breakfasts and analysing power dynamics? Does an applicant's public persona and stated goals truly represent who they are? Can we really presume to know who others will find interesting and inspiring?
There is a lot about the process that feels intuitive, and that can be at odds with a general intention to be as transparent and accountable as possible. So it is a relief that there are at least some lines that can be sketched in the ground.
1. We are always endeavouring to create a membership that is truly diverse in demographics and disciplines.
That means not having a disproportionate preponderance of, say, clean tech investors or business coaches or Oxbridge lawyers.
To this point, right now we're on a mission to make the community more ethnically colourful (it's currently too white), to attract more people working in academia (in particular mathematicians, historians and political scientists), and to grow the number of members at later stages of their career (i.e. theoretically 'retired' or 'retiring').
2. We have to be confident that every member is in a position to be able to both give and take.
Some applicants simply don't have enough experience to share - yet.
3. It's vital that all members are aligned with the values underpinning The Hot Breakfast.
This is not the place for individuals who solely want to drive sales or self-promote. In many respects, this is what sets our network apart from others on the market.
The overarching question driving curation decisions is essentially: "would accepting this application be in the best interests of The Hot Breakfast community as a whole?" It's surprising how often circling back to this broad principle seems to resolve any dilemma.