Lennon Flowers

Ashoka Fellow
United States
Fellow Since 2016

Citation

This profile was prepared when Lennon Flowers was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
Each year, nearly one million young Americans experience the loss of a parent or sibling right at the moment when they are starting careers and families of their own. In a culture where death loss is generally met with discomfort or shrouded in silence, this life-altering event is already deeply destabilizing. But for young people who are among the first in their peer group to lose someone close to them, the situation can be particularly isolating. Friends don’t know how to react, therapy zooms in on overcoming grief, and non-clinical spaces can feel foreign and out-of-touch. Lennon Flowers and The Dinner Party team are building a movement of people who harness the latent value and energy in loss and unlock their own resilience and that of others.

Over the last two years, Lennon and her team have built a global network of more than 290 table hosts and supported more than 3,000 participants around the world, who regularly gather around potluck-style dinners as part of a wider effort to transform life after loss from an isolating experience into one marked by community support, candid conversation, and forward movement. They have been able to take an experience that's normally isolating and repurpose it as an extraordinary tool for connection. With tables in more than 85 cities around the U.S. and around the world, The Dinner Party has been able to bring old ideas into modern parlance and to humanize – rather that pathologize – loss, complementing and even disrupting the antiquated grief “industry” in the process. The Dinner Party proves that people actually do want to talk about loss – it's just that they rarely know what to say, or have spaces in which to say it.

Through her work and a growing network of collaborators, partners, thought-leaders, and media amplifiers, Lennon is showing the power of community and peer relations in solving other problems and has distilled a key set of principles and practical [community-]building blocks. In a culture hungry for meaning and lacking space for deep, soulful conversations, Lennon is working to ensure that her learnings and insights spread beyond The Dinner Party.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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