We've all experienced stale 'community' environments. Workplaces rife with distrust. Volunteer organisations with a few ardent leaders - and volunteers who arrive passionate and leave disengaged. 'Community' or 'networking' groups where everybody seems to have their own agenda.
These spaces either don't have underlying community, or are affected by major pathologies. Nobody is looking after the health of the community. More often than not, the community's champions are actively undermining it.
Community requires a web of healthy, synergistic relationships between community members. Trust is built up through interactions. People associate with the group, and care for one another. And yes, this takes care and attention.
Organisations seem to get away without dedicating proper care to community. Organisations dehumanise, forcing people into transaction-based behaviour systems. This applies to staff as well as customers. It works - up to a point. The side effects are dissatisfaction, poor performance, and an expensive HR and Corporate Services maintenance bill.
Many organisations are held together, despite dysfunctions, by expensive band-aids. They get away with neglecting community because they have the resources. If you don't have the resources, you don't have a choice. Initiatives that fail to appreciate this fail to survive.
Appreciating the importance of community is only the start. Most of our methods for organisation were developed for large corporations. Established ways to manage, make decisions, communicate and sell our products and our selves - command and control management, marketing, broadcast communications... Community is completely below the radar of the organisational paradigm that created these methodologies.
Established methods don't foster community - they undermine it. They incubate community pathologies and lead to stale, unhealthy environments.
Successful, sustainable initiatives need to be informed by principles and approaches that support community.
Now, I'm sorry if this disappoints - but I don't have The Answers, and these aren't clear or well refined like the tools of corporate management. Neither for me, nor as far as I can tell, for any others. Though there is a lot of really great work out there to start from. (Google 'social business' for a start. Loving @Nilofer's work at the moment.)
As I work through content and synthesise the progress others have made I'll be sharing what emerges. My last post, about the firestarter community maturity metaphor, is a start.
As I get my head around a few different pockets, I feel like I'm finally getting to a position of pragmatic knowledge. It's exciting! I look forward to testing, sharing and doing some meaningful work.
So, back to it!