Black Elephant is an experiential social network based on vulnerability.

Black Elephant brings very different people together and forges genuine connection between them, through the sharing of vulnerability.

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It's a social network that makes people feel better and improves their mental health.
Anwar Ibrahim

Prime Minister of Malaysia

I had a wonderful evening in a virtual Black Elephant parade, a social networking event that brings people together from various walks of life to build a stronger sense of global community through empathy and vulnerability. As I grew older, I learned the value of universal values and multi-culturism. As we weather these turbulent times, I hope we can all continue engaging with each other, young and old, from all cultures.

Clare Farrell

cofounder of Exctinction Rebellion

Black Elephant invited me to join in dialogue with strangers, holding space for conversations where we are both vulnerable and connected. In our digital world of disconnection and our real world with its damaged climate and environment, listening well is a skill we need to foster. It can also be a tonic.

Blaise Agüera y Arcas

VP Fellow, Google Research

We’re living in a time of constant interaction with others, both physically (as the world finishes its long urbanization sigmoid) and virtually (especially in post-pandemic time). Yet too many of those interactions are transactional, and too many of them keep us in our filter bubbles. Black Elephant Parades are designed to achieve rapid vulnerability and connection over long-range jumps in humanity’s social network— connection with people you would never have met otherwise. The experience is powerful, moving, and deeply humanizing. This feels important, especially now.

Black Elephant Parades

The technical term for a pack of pachyderms is a parade. Black Elephant parades are the building blocks of the Black Elephant network. They happen in groups of 9-10 people.

In-person Black Elephant parades allow members to engage with improbable people from their own backyard.

Virtual BE parades allow members to engage with improbable people from all over the world.

How it works


Black Elephant invites to a parade members of the network with very diverse backgrounds. In virtual parades, participants come from all over the world.


Virtual parades last 90 minutes. Participants share vulnerability by answering two questions, one after the other.


In-person parades last 3 hours. Participants share vulnerability by answering 3 questions, one after the other.


Participants are connected to one another via the Black Elephant platform after the parade.

Our Values

Openness to otherness

Vulnerability & identification as the most effective conduit for deeper connection

Genuine identification happens around what we feel, rather than what we think. This is the great equalizer

Black Elephant is committed to a vision of diversity that is neither normative nor cosmetic

Who we are

Felix Marquardt
Felix Marquardt

Founder and Chairman

Felix is a former head of communications of the International Herald Tribune and a former advisor to heads of state and Fortune 500 CEOs. A disillusioned former Davos regular, he is the founder of the Atlantic Dinners and the author of The New Nomads, originally published in English by Simon & Schuster. The book contains the genesis of Black Elephant, a project born from his experience as a self-styled repenting global schmoozer and an addict in recovery.

Jean-Marc Mormeck
Jean-Marc Mormeck

Jean-Marc is a former professional boxer, two-time unified world cruiserweight champion. Retired in 2014, he became a government delegate for the French overseas territories before representing the Parisian suburbs for the Ile-de-France Region. Black Elephant cofounder, Jean-Marc serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board and ambassador for the project.

Thordis Elva
Thordis Elva

Chairwoman, Board of Advisors

Woman of the Year 2015 in her native Iceland, Thordis was instrumental in leading the #metoo revolution two years later and accepted the Person of the Year award on behalf of the movement. In 2020, she founded the Nordic Digital Rights and Equality Foundation along with other Nordic experts in the field. Thordis has also built on her personal experience in her work, sharing her own story of sexual assault in a TED talk that has been viewed 6 million times. She is the first survivor of assault to publicly collaborate with her perpetrator with the hope that sharing their story will help prevent abuse in other relationships. Their book, South of Forgiveness, has been published across four continents.

Abdramane Diabate
Abdramane Diabate

Chief Executive Officer

Born in rural Mali, Abdramane is a Stanford University graduate, former Senior Strategy Consultant at Dalberg’s Dakar office and one of the main characters of the New Nomads. His work has led him to delve into multiple sectors, including public policy, education, agriculture and health. Abdramane now serves as Black Elephant’s CEO, running global operations and developing the network in Africa.

Florence Servan-Schreiber
Florence Servan-Schreiber

Chief Experience Officer

Author, speaker and TV presenter, Florence Servan-Schreiber is the founder of Essentia Groupe, a training and corporate consulting firm devoted to spreading happiness and gratitude through management tools and strategic innovation. She earned her degrees in humanistic psychology and sustainability management from San Francisco universities. Trained in Positive psychology by Tal Ben Shahar, she published two French best seller '3 kifs par jours' (3 'likes' a day and other scientific happiness rituals) and Power Patate (Discover your superpowers) and performed on the stage in the first, theatrical happiness masterclass, touring in Europe.

Martin Shaw
Martin Shaw

Chief Storyteller

Dr. Martin Shaw is an award-winning writer who lives on Dartmoor in the far west of Britain. A deeply respected oral storyteller, Dr Shaw created the Oral Tradition and Mythic Life courses at Stanford University. He is director at the Westcountry School of Myth and a longtime wilderness rites of passage guide. Robert Bly named him: 'a true master, one of the very greatest storytellers we have.'

Tola Gisanrin
Tola Gisanrin

Co-founder, Head of Authenticity

Of Barbadian and Nigerian descent, Tola grew up in Tottenham. Tola’s Afro-Caribbean cuisine, which he learnt from his mother, has made him famous in London and well beyond. He is also a Complex needs recovery practitioner working at Society of St James in Portsmouth.

Emmanuella Zandi Muderhwa
Emmanuella Zandi Muderhwa

Kinshasa Lead

Emmanuella is a Congolese activist, journalist and entrepreneur. Her main areas of focus are girls' rights and sexual and gender-based violence, of which she was a victim in her early childhood. Emmanuella is the founder of Ma Voisine (My Neighbor), a girls' movement reaching over 100,000 girls in her native Congo. Despite her young age, 24, Emmanuella has already been nominated an Ambassador for Peace by the UN.

Jeff Key
Jeff Key

US Lead

Jeff Key is a multimedia storyteller, a United States Marine, Iraq War Veteran, Sociopolitical Activist, Veterans Advocate, and Black Elephant Ambassador. He just directed his first short film as part of the Veterans Filmmaking Project, which he founded and for sixteen years has helped veterans put pen to paper. He lives in New Orleans, Louisiana with his two cats Walt Whitman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Jeff serves as US Lead for Black Elephant, developing the network in North America.

Black Elephant presents Meta + Physics

For the past year, the Black Elephant team has slowly been drawing the contours of what a new way of gathering the world might look like, taking inspiration from the Eranos conference associated with Carl Jung and the meetings around Ivan Illich in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Our main intuition is that the punctual get-togethers of the past need to give way to journeys -journeys which allow participants to build in-depth connection before they meet in person as a means to make these meetings more meaningful, generative, indeed transformational.

We are therefore proud to present Meta + Physics, our 6-month flagship journey that will consist of:

  • The launch of the Black Elephant Lectures @ Sciences Po Paris on 30 January 2023 introduced by Mathias Vicherat, the school’s President
  • 5 monthly online gatherings of 90 minutes in 9 groups of 9 people between January and May 2023, curated by Anna Björkman & Dougald Hine, founders of A School Called HOME
  • The culmination of our journey, in-person on Patmos, Greece, 7-11 June 2023, curated by Martin Shaw, founder of the School of Myth and Black Elephant’s Resident Storyteller

The theme for year zero of Meta + Physics is : “What Is Intelligence?”

We tend to think of intelligence as “what humans do”. Among humans, normative definitions of intelligence also exclude the vast majority of humans who haven’t studied in the elite schools and institutions that are the official engines of “meritocracy”. What if these narrow understandings of what constitutes intelligence in non-human nature and even among humans was the root cause of many of our age’s ills ?

“What Is Intelligence?” is an attempt to herald a more generative, meaningful and healthy understanding of intelligence, intelligence-as-relationship, by bringing together interesting people, some recognized by their peers and some not, and fostering in-depth connection, relatedness and empathy between them.

We believe that this journey can serve as a prototype for a new way of gathering the world.

Please contact us through the form below to find out more and/or register to take part in this year zero of Meta + Physics.

The Black Elephant Lectures @SciencesPo

Questioning the nature of intelligence through the lens of personal traumas

Monday 30 January at 7:30 pm
Amphitheatre Leroy-Beaulieu
27 rue Saint-Guillaume, Paris, 75007

Introduction by

Mathias Vicherat and Felix Marquardt


Martin Shaw, Mythologist, Storyteller & Founder, Stanford University Oral Tradition and Mythic Life courses and Author, Smoke Hole : Looking to the Wild in the Time of the Spyglass

Corine Pelluchon, Philosopher & Professor, Université Gustave-Eiffel, Author, L’espérance ou la traversée de l’impossible

Thordis Elva, Activist for gender equality & Author of South of Forgiveness, Founder of the Nordic Digital Rights and Equality Foundation

Mohamed Amer Meziane, Philosopher & Research Fellow, Columbia University, Author of Des empires sous la terre

Clare Farrell, Extinction Rebellion Cofounder

Tola Gisanrin, Black Elephant Cofounder, former gang member

The Black elephant lectures @SciencesPo will showcase the virtues of vulnerability and post traumatic growth.

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