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What Makes a Community Great

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Why is it so difficult to find a community?  It seems there’s a societal shift away from community as a concept that’s been happening for decades. This video by The School of Life (sourced from Sally Rumble and SwissMiss) makes some good points on this subject. We tend to be wary of people outside of our own circles, which causes resistance to assuming accountability in groups of strangers, or in any group for that matter.

Adding to the hesitancy of joining a community once you’ve found one is not knowing whether or not what you’re walking into is genuine. Perhaps to no fault of their own, groups that share common interests, geographic proximity, etc., bill themselves as communities even though they lack elements that fulfill that definition.

For those interested in building a community, or diving into one that’s already out there, here’s what I think it takes (along with examples of groups that are getting it right):

1) Habit (Creative Mornings)

At the most basic level, no community would hold up without its members showing up on a regular basis. Creating systems of habit allows your constituents to easily come through for each other. At Radish, it’s common knowledge that I’m all about the monthly lecture series Creative Mornings, which does a great job of bringing people together on a regular schedule. In fact, we even mark on our calendars when it’s time to sign up for the next lecture, since open spots are in such high demand.

2) Accountability (House of Genius)

As mentioned above, habit creates space for community members to come through for each other. I would call this accountability, another essential. In a way, being accountable in a community setting requires far less from an individual than isolated relationships might. It falls on the group to be there when one person is in need, which feels less scary than being the sole backer-upper. House of Genius is an incredible network of thoughtful, smart people who come together to lend input on each other’s projects. It’s a perfect example of a setting where accountability comes into play in a major way, as all participants must give feedback to presenters.

3) Cause (U.S. Department of Arts and Culture)

People who work for a common cause often feel camaraderie. Purpose-driven communities stick together because they are striving to create change, which is more easily accomplished together. I had the privilege not so long ago of working with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, which is a (not actually federally affiliated) organization “mobilizing creativity in the service of social justice.” Their reason for being is the unification of all people, which helps foster a very real feeling of solidarity throughout the network.