Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Harvard Psychedelics Club Story of Us - Our Values

The Harvard Psychedelics Club is half community and half project based. The mission of the club is to promote dialogue that the impact that psychedelics have had on culture, spirituality, medicine, philosophy and more. As well as to have a supportive community where people based on trust, authenticity and vulnerability where people can share and connect on the deeper and the deep aspects of life. The club was founded in 2019 as the Harvard Science of Psychedelics club by Andrew, Kenneth, and JJ and they put on events and started building a community around Harvard. Then, during covid the club fell dormant as people were sent home, some graduated. 

Yana Lazarova-Weng and I took over as co-presidents in the summer of 2021 and have worked consistently in the two years since to build it up into what it is today. At first we welcomed anyone who would join in whatever capacity possible and then, after we became somewhat more established, we began taking applications, interviewing candidates and designing and facilitating an interactive and engaging month-long comp process, which was finished off with an initiation. As more people became interested and applied, we changed our policy to require a four-hour-per-week commitment to be an active board member to help create more buy-in. We have also built it up into an organization with five different teams that each work on different initiatives and 24 board (16 active) members, 15 of whom have gone through one of the three the comp (onboarding) classes we’ve run.

Another aspect of the core design mission is to create a platform for indigenous voices and perspectives to pay respect and listen and learn from the traditions and lineages that have stewarded these medicines for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years: and more broadly, feature as many different multidisciplinary perspectives on psychedelics from all different traditions and lineages—ancient and contemporary. 

When building the club, we wanted to create a unique culture, which was different from the other organizations on campus. The co-creation of this culture was a big area of focus and attention and was resulted in an environment facilitating and participating in an environment where people are open and vulnerable with each other and where it is safe enough for people to open that period from this, build deep friendships and connections.

There are five different teams in the psychedelics club there is an events team, a social media team. A merch/visual culture team, a website team, and an editorial team. Each of these teams mostly meet individually and sometimes work in tandem throughout the semester. This relatively decentralized model allows for lots of flexibility when it comes to scheduling and allows many different people to be leaders and do what they want with the club and pursue what is interesting to them.

For this class, I conducted a participatory action research project interviewing six board members about the club: Yana Lazarova-Weng (co president), Mikey Gomez (executive director), Ben Allen (events team), Ida Fladhammer (merch team), and Martino Boni-Beadle (Merch team). I asked them about what they considered special and unique about hpc.

People Centered
A few people talked about how people centered the club is and how there is a strong emphasis and norm of first checking in about how each person is doing before diving into work-related topics and in general being flexible and working with and around people to find projects that they're interested in, and also to make things work in general. 

Another theme was the feeling of the community and how it feels very open and supportive. Ben Allen has been a board member on the events team for a year spoke about how unique the hpc culture in the context of the broader undergraduate extracurricular landscape. Cultivating a culture like this was one of the big intentions that I had in the early days of the club. The vision was to create an environment where people would feel excited and inspired by the work rather than drained of making an effort to as much as possible, have the work that people are doing really come from a genuine place of inspiration and interest as opposed to just coming from external pressures or and I think this is a really key part of the culture. 

Exciting and Inspired Projects
Others talked about how the projects that they work on in hpc feel exciting and meaningful and inspiring. And that they appreciate that about the club. 

One of the biggest events organized by the club every semester is the art show. We have put on four of these so far. For the show, the club takes submissions from various student artists and community members, prints and displays their art, and also features live music sets. The purpose of this event is to celebrate the community's creativity for its own sake, and providing a non-judgmental environment for people to showcase and share their art with each other. We also sell prints of the art to pay for the expenses of the show, and there are many posters from hpc art shows hanging in and decorating dorm rooms across campus. 

In addition to the art show, the club puts on a wide variety of events for the broader community such as speaker panels, movie screenings, art-making nights, and socials. Additionally, there are internal events for the board.

The club has been meaningful for many board members over the past two years and now that it is more established, the next big step is institutionalize it and carry out a successful transition of leadership. The next section will explore possible ways to recreate the culture going forward and preserve the aspects of hpc that are most special to the board, so that it can hopefully live on for many years after Yana and I graduate.

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