Community has been on my mind recently. Specifically the idea of how to develop and curate community. I've been asking myself, "what exactly are the variables needed for community to develop". You could go deep... deep... into this topic for sure. My mind map around the issue is massive, covering all kinds of events, ideas, and actions that contribute to true camaraderie . Yet, as I waded through a sea of ideas, there seemed to be some patterns emerging. Specifically, there appears to be three central and encompassing concepts that uphold great community. These three pillars of shared experience, authentic story, and common values, encompass a vast array of subjective and unique actions or variables. In other words, community looks different to everyone. That is, each and ever community is a microcosm of small experiences, intertwined stories, and shared ideas of what matters. Communities are unique, to be sure, but the central ideas that develop community are universal.
SHARED EXPERIENCE: The first pillar that holds up a community is the idea of shared experiences. In my own thought, research, conversations, and history, it seems that this core concept spans all community. Every group I've been involved with or looked at shared some sort of rallying experience that binds people together in an unspoken sort of way. Words so often fall short, don't they? I love the idea that people won't often remember what you say, but they'll always remember how you make them feel. Shared experiences drive these common feelings within a group to elevate it from organization to community. No matter the experience, positive or negative, celebration or trial, each one shared amongst a group is an advance on more common ground.
AUTHENTIC STORY: I believe this has always mattered, but it may matter more today than ever before. My generation (millennial), and the generation behind me, place significant value on authenticity. It's not simply authenticity that binds us though - story is what really binds us. Members of great communities know the authentic stories of others within the community. There is, on some level, a presence of open and honest conversation taking placing. There is an invitation for vulnerability. There is a desire to know and be known. There may be nothing more effective at binding people together in community than simply sharing our stories with each other. Knowing others and their history, background, experience, success, and failure, fuels strong connection.
COMMON VALUES: Experience and story build and reinforce community, but people need something to rally around. They need something to point towards and share. Communities must have a set of common values. Of course these values could be incredibly diverse amongst many unique groups, but they always exist. Common values become the core of our connection with others. We want to know we're doing life with people who applaud and approve the same attributes and ideals we do. To consider the opposite, true community can't exist in the absence of common values. Our words and actions are exclusively a result of what we deem important. If a group has no common value, there is no possibility of creating true, authentic, inspiring, community. That's not to say all values must be shared, but communities develop around some collective set of respected ideals.
What have you found to be critical to develop community? What are some of the best communities you've ever been involved with and what made them so great? I'd love to get your input in the comments bellow.