Meet me in Vientiane: ‘N’ is NEXT

16N gathers 16 strangers in real life. To talk about a thing that starts with an ‘N’…


‘N’ Vientiane: NEXT

LET’S MEET IN REAL LIFE. Just 16 people. To talk together about the idea of ‘NEXT.’ This is the idea of 16N: to gather people whose paths might not have otherwise have crossed. Briefly. Once. For a conversation of the kind you’ve never experienced before: it’s not a workshop, it’s not a party. It’s nothing like you’d expect. That’s what people have told us, at ‘N’ events in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and London. ‘N’ Vientiane is NEXT.


More information, including details of how to request an invite, is at this page >


A new plateau

LEGACIES ARE MADE AND BUILT based on the learnings we can articulate clearly, and share. Dialogue makes us gather our ideas and respond to those of others, too. Perspectives can shift and whole rooms of internal awareness can open, if we allow ourselves room to reflect. It’s why I am always taking pictures like this, I think. I like to make the space for zooming into quiet. Processing ‘N’, which just happened on Wednesday here in London. No pictures. No social media. Just quiet space, to feel what it was, and reflect. Quietly, alone.

There are a few things coming together for 2017 for members of our online community, S. P. A. C. E. A different kind of thing than me posting blog entries, much more interactive: both real-life spacemaking events in cities like San Francisco and Bangkok, and conversation forums in online ‘rooms.’ The big idea is much like the 16N experience: connecting us to new and different others, making space for us to reflect and better tune in to our own selves, our own hoped-for legacy, whether we’re conscious of what it is or just open to ambling our way towards something bigger than simply existing day-to-day. I came to London a year ago to see George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. In which similar questions of existence and purpose and meaning popped up. I can tell you where all this is going, but only if you are interest in hearing more. Are you? If yes, leave me a note.

A picture blog

IN UNCERTAIN TIMES, one of the things we can do is to keep talking, and gathering, and sharing our views. Especially with new and different others.

‘N’. Right now I am in London. Because we are about to host 16N, a conversation salon that’s also a big blind date. The idea is to mix it up. (We tried to spell that out more at this page, which, I think, I hope, helps describe the ‘why’ of a thing like this. And why we continue to try to convene people who don’t know one another, who are new and different to each other, for discovering new thinking and new perspectives in a light, fun way that’s not academic or weird). Well, maybe it’s a bit weird. A stranger contacts you and asks you out to a thing called ‘N’. What would you do? Delete? That’s pretty much what 99% of people have done. Believe it or not, I’ve made more than 550 personal invites so far, but that’s okay. I’m looking for the magic set of 16, and it *is* pretty magical when it happens.

At ‘N’ in Phnom Penh we talked about what is NORMAL. Then, in Bangkok, we talked about NOW. In five days, here in London, 16 strangers will talk together on NOTEWORTHINESS. ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ So far, 12 tickets booked at the time of this writing. Is anyone out there, reading and being curious from a distance? Now is the time to hit me up.

Meantime, I’ll be posting. Every day. Pics at

I look forward to any reconnections, new conversations to come.

To the journey! —AS

Let’s meet in real life in Phnom Penh

THE FIRST TIME I CAME TO PHNOM PENH, there was a feeling that anything could happen. This was in March 2014. This was a time in my life that I needed to be in a place where you could try things, make it up, see what happened. Because so much of what I had imagined was going to work simply hadn’t been doing that. I was on the verge of quitting it all. Giving up on the ‘Anything is Possible’ dream that we started Design Kompany with as a limited liability company in Seattle in 2005.

This was the hope, back then:

You could do anything you wanted, if you just had a clear picture of what it was. Somehow, the universe would deliver. Regardless of background or income or societal class, the clarity of intent was the key.

A few days after moving into a flat on Street 63, something that I never imagined I would do, because… living in Cambodia? Crazy thought. Yet it was… so simple. A business visa. A new gig. Things seemed possible, again. So, in my usual style of getting excited about gathering people to talk about real things in remarkable ways, I organized a conversation salon. Called it ORIGIN.

‘What is fromness?’ Having turned this question about in my heart for the one year on the road in India, Nepal, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Laos, I very much wanted to know.

Origin. Hm. A question posed, so casually. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘No, I mean, where are you from, originally?’

What is fromness, anyway?

A burning question in your heart is one of the best indicators that it’s time to set up a salon.

So I did. Using a technique that some of you might know, called Open Space, and coupling it with the many conversations in client meetings, workshop style and open-ended, that I’ve learned are the way to inviting people to open up and make a space for real connection. Journalism and architecture are things I worked in before, so that helps design a frame within which we can do the work of good dialogue. It’s great.

DK’s salons in Phnom Penh 2014-2017

ORIGIN became the first of a series of salons on topics like: BEAUTY, ENNUI, MATH+JAZZ, ROOFTOP PHILOSOPHY, DISTRACTE, CHOICES, and dozens more. Always these we hosted in the ‘unconference’ format. Later I hosted these as ‘S P A C E’ events, lighter in intent and smaller in scale. These were for both public conversation salon spaces, as well as invitation-only ones. I realized that curating a guestlist can be just as exciting as the super free form that is the kind I share about publicly. Both are nice. In this way, DK began to grow a small community. Very small. But still. That felt right. Small is beautiful, as they say.

How do the salons work? Very simple. When the participants arrive, you host the space in such a way as to invite those who are there to share what they hope to hear, and in this way, a natural and organically formed agenda is devised. On the spot. It’s nice. We talk together in small circles, only with those who are also interested in exploring the topics that we are. In this way, we make good on our time. Most importantly, this: it’s real.

We establish real connections.

People at ORIGIN, pictured below, seemed to really engage with this style of gathering with new and different others. Here’s a pic:

A LOT OF TIMES you just throw an idea ‘out there’ and see if it ‘has legs,’ which is just designspeak for, ‘Does anyone really want this?’ The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I keep making these for the few people who say ‘yes.’ Like all good things, things that have a specific quality to them, it’s not for everyone. In my three years since ORIGIN, I have tried out a lot of other kinds of topics, to mixed reviews and response. I have also traveled to other countries and gathered people in different cities, specifically to try this, just to see if maybe saying ‘yes’ to open-ended conversation salons is dependent on place. It’s not. It’s about the people.

Whoever comes is the right people, it says in the Open Space manual. Whatever happens is exactly the only thing that could have.

And so it is.

Revisiting ORIGIN

I WILL BE hosting ORIGIN again. It will be DK’s last conversation salon in Phnom Penh.

The date is set for 21 April. The location will be on Street 334 in BKK1.

There are tickets on sale at this website. (If you don’t have a credit card, you can ask me through the form below how to sign up with Wing or cash.) I’m so excited about ORIGIN 2017, but I’m also more experienced now in salonmaking. The people who come are the right people when you have the clarity of intent communicated very articulately. Are you interested in the topic of ‘fromness?’ Then ORIGIN is for you. What it is not is a place to go if you are otherwise bored, or if no other options come up for you on the day. That is why there are tickets, and they are only available for advance bookings. I’m looking forward to it.

Will we see you there? Advance bookings only, please. Limited seats.

‘Wait, I have a question…’

OKAY. Here’s a form you can use to connect…

‘Yes, I’m in! How can I sign up?’

REGISTER TODAY through Eventbrite to secure your spot.


A letter to guests of 3N


Once the date is set this sort of moves pretty quickly: finalising the guestlist, sharing the agenda, confirming that you can be there, making sure you know where we’re meeting. That kind of thing. Just like any great party, you have to do all the detail stuff way ahead of time, right? But also, like any great party, it’s about who comes more than anything else, at all.

So I’m very excited to meet some of you for the first time and reconnect with those I haven’t seen for quite a while. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the dialogue to come amongst you all as we gather for the first time and last time, most likely, in this ‘onceness’ experience of ’16N.’

Next I’ll share the details of the venue. An agenda. And the exact meetpoint.

NOTEWORTHINESS being our theme, I’ve been brainstorming quite a lot about this, also talking to people here about how to best host a conversation salon on this theme. Pretty excited about some of the playful conversation-starters that have come towards me from this wonderful group of people who are also making spaces to engage with new and different others. We all have our methods and styles and ways, but I think gatherings are just so great. So I’m looking forward to it.

More soon on email…