Those of you that follow me here on my blog and my consulting work know that I talk a lot about community.
What is community?
The answer is neither simple nor quickly defined– if it was I would be a gazillionaire living on an island. It is important, for every activist, founder and mobilizer to understand what community is, what their communities need and why community resonates so deeply with us all.
Community offers us promise.
It offers us the promise of acceptance, of belonging, of safety and of support.
Community requires us to be vulnerable, to co create and to co-own. It requires shared leadership, shared success and shared failure. Communities can be hard, lonely, insular and painful at times– quick to judge , hard to forgive full of rules and laws that restrict and confine.
They also can be welcoming, open, rich and diverse. Community is not created instantly nor easily. Its created through hard work, honest and deep conversation and the acceptance of individual differences.
A community is not just the people who are in it. It is a set of interactions, human behaviors that have meaning and expectations between its members. Real community is action based. Actions based on shared expectations, values, beliefs and meanings between individuals.
The Mobilizer Must Understand Community
To be more effective as a change agent , to empower or strengthen communities, you need to know the nature of communities, and how they behave.
Mobilizers must see the beauty and potential in every community but equally as important is the need for deep understanding of communities and how they evolve . Understanding the sacrifices, history and common needs.
Mobilizers must create a space where conflicts can be resolved not avoided. They must create a place where individuals do not have to conform but, still know that they will always be respected and supported. For this to happen your community will probably at times be unpleasant and chaotic….that is OK.
The storming must happen before peace can be invited in.
Please understand that you can not now, nor ever heal, convert, fix, solve or control people into community. They have to come into community willingly, openly with open heart and mind……releasing prejudices and ideology that hold us separate. Guarding the safety of the members is more important than doctrine or rhetoric.
Community building is hard work that does not occur in a linear progression. That would be way too easy. Each person may arrive seeking community from different places and perspectives. Eventually, a group consensus or critical mass moves into community. When members feel like they belong– they will nurture, build and love it.
Build communities first–problems will then be solved.
This post was based on thework of many great community builders including the work of M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum