Sparked Story: Vivian Best

May 29, 2019

Sparked Story: Vivian Best

How did you first hear about Sparked?

I saw an ad for Sparked on Facebook!  I had just finished reading Shasta Nelson’s “Friendships Don’t Just Happen,” and the book helped me realize that although it was wonderful that my husband was my best friend, I needed more female friendships in my life.  I saw the game as a tool for building connections and immediately purchased it! I loved the idea of answering questions and hearing people’s stories! At the time, my daughter had started pre-school and I was re-discovering my own sense of self and purpose. The first game that I organized was for moms of children the same age as my daughter.  From the first time, I knew I’d want to keep hosting events to play the game. It was amazing to see the mom-friends who came to play as more than moms. It was beautiful to hear about their aspirations and the stories that just don’t come up during playdates!


What made you want to play/purchase it?

I wanted to purchase and play the game because I love sharing stories and experiences with women in my life.  The game really showed me how much I enjoyed holding space for women to share and reflect on their lives and I noticed how much EVERYONE appreciated being able to sit together and talk, even with strangers.  There was something special about being together for an evening and sharing things we hadn’t shared outside of close-knit circles with everyone in the room.

How often do you play Sparked?

I now play Sparked about 2-3 times a week.  I organize lunchtime and evening games. It has become a form of self-care and community engagement for me.

In what settings?

Oddly, I’ve never hosted a game in my own home.  I host games in other people’s home because my daughter would have a hard time sleeping if we were playing in my own house!  I’ve always asked friends, acquaintances and random folks from networking groups to host! We’ve had games in poolside cabanas and recreation rooms in swanky condominiums, in living rooms all over town, at restaurants, hotel conference rooms, and office spaces!  I’ve also hosted games in nursing homes for seniors, parent support groups in nonprofit offices, and in dance studios and co-working spaces!


What motivated you to create Sparked Gatherings?

The more I play Sparked, the more I realize how much we need opportunities for authentic connection in everyday life.  Frequency of contact is important to building friendships, and hosting regular Sparked game events has given me a ready invitation to any new and interesting person whom I come across, on social media and in real-life.  It gives me an opportunity to invite someone into my life to connect with me, and gives me an opportunity to connect new folks with people in my life, and it gives me an opportunity to guarantee that when I am going out in the evening, that I will have a high-quality meaningful interaction with others.  

Sparked is high-level networking that makes our deepest values known.  Introverts love this game because it takes the small-talk out, and builds in so much more depth when meeting new people.  I am lucky to be an extrovert who is delighted to play the game with strangers as well as people whom I’ve played with before, but I find that introverts are drawn to the game because they feel heard and they get to learn a lot from others, since only one person is speaking at a time.  The overwhelm of networking is taken out of the experience.

What has the response been to Sparked in Honolulu?

Women love this game.  When I started playing, it was just mom friends, and then I continued to reach out to women I met and to advertise about games on social media.  Women would invite their friends to join, and the community continued to grow as friendships continued to blossom. Women love sharing their stories with one another, and they also love feeling validated and heard.  When I left Honolulu a handful of other women stepped in to continue to organize Sparked games!

How did Sparked build your community and network?

I couldn’t imagine not having a Sparked game on my calendar after moving to a new city, so a week before I left Honolulu, I reached out to someone on Facebook who lived in the neighborhood I was moving into, and asked if she would be willing to host a game in her home.  When I moved to Austin, I didn’t have a list. I started building one from friends of friends in Honolulu. I asked all of my Hawaii friends to support me by connecting me to their friends in Austin. My realtor in Honolulu (who took over my Sparked in Honolulu community) recommended two realtors in Austin. My husband’s former co-worker suggested her husband’s office mate in Austin. A vegan friend in Honolulu recommended the game to vegan friends in Austin.

From my Sparked network in Honolulu and some social media posts, our first game night in Austin had over 85 women expressing “interest” in coming on Facebook and we had an amazing evening with nine attendees!  The “Sparked in Austin” Facebook page now has 328 likes (after 5 months of game play). I have played with just under 200 people in Austin in these five months! Sparked has helped me to offer consistent opportunities for others to meet me, and connect with each other. Friendships have been forged and it is wonderful to see people sharing photos on social media doing activities (and business!) with people they met through playing the game in Honolulu and in Austin.

Tell us some interesting Sparked Stories or moments of connection/synchronicity among players.

There are so many magical coincidences!  There was a time when someone needed legal assistance, and someone who was playing the game was able to step in and offer helpful suggestions.  There have also been so many opportunities for people to realize that they are not alone in their experiences, that they are more connected than they realized.  There was a game when someone needed help with sewing and someone offered sewing lessons. There have been many magical moments where people could step in to offer support after a surgery, or with an empathetic ear, or for help with moving.  It has created a community network, and built a sense of camaraderie amongst a handful of entrepreneurs as well!

What was the most surprising thing that happened as a result of playing?

I remember stating that I wanted to master the skill of public speaking, and someone who attended the game invited me to attend a talk given by a brilliant speaker to Entrepreneur’s Organization.  It’s an opportunity I never would have known about, if not for Sparked! It also led me to saying “yes” to the opportunity to be a WomanSpeak Circle Leader. Organizing Sparked games helped me to see the need for women to have consistent opportunities to speak out, share stories, and perhaps to refine those messages so that they could be share with wider audiences!  WomanSpeak gives women that platform to dig deeper into their own experiences and share from the heart. I learned about that opportunity from a woman who came to play Sparked too!

What’s the best part about playing Sparked?

The best part about playing Sparked is the network of women that it has helped me to create around myself.  Sparked has given me the tools to sit in circles of women consistently holding space for authenticity and inspiration.

What was Sparked in you as a result of playing?

Sparked has supported me in cultivating and understanding my own personal power as a connector.  It has helped me to use my natural “woo” (from Strengthsfinder 2.0) and put it to the cause of bringing people together for personal development in a fun and meaningful context.  It formed a bridge to WomanSpeak and my role working as a Circle Leader and on the backend for WomanSpeak.


Why are you on a personal mission to bring Sparked to more communities?

People often ask me if I created the game, and I always tell them no, but that I’m the game’s biggest fan.  I never expected to feel so resonant with a game. Sparked is the best facilitation tool that I have ever encountered.  The more I play, the more evidence I have for the positive difference this game makes in people’s lives. They sit and reflect on questions, and share their stories with one another.  Then, they go home and continue to think and grow, and to be impacted by these conversations with one another. It’s a beautiful way to gather and to grow friendships and relationships with others in a safe community.

As a former classroom teacher, dance event organizer, and as a parent, I’ve continuously felt called to create inclusive and caring communities.  Organizing Sparked games allows me to create spaces for others that can hold more possibilities for connection, and can address the loneliness epidemic that has been created by social media.  Playing Sparked is about gathering people for meaningful experiences that they may not know they’re starved for! The game fills a deep need for authenticity.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

I’m a connector on many levels.  I’m a Feldenkrais practitioner, teaching self-aware self-care.  My compassionate guidance helps to bring a sense of pleasure in movement and ease to my clients.  I also believe in the value of social connection and the process of creating support in our modern lives beyond our devices.  I bring positive change, building thoughtful communities to bring greater awareness and hope for change, growth and possibility through creating Sparked communities!  I support women to create connections, share resources and take initiative in their lives by helping them to bring their voices to what truly matters as a WomanSpeak Circle Leader.  I’ve also founded two nonprofit projects: Give It Fresh Today (excess produce donation program to benefit the homeless) and Piko Pals (a new parent support program to help new parents build community).


Do you have a Sparked Story to share? Click here to submit it.