21 ingredients for a sustainable community


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This was written originally in October 2008 as a result of leading a discussion in Seth Godin's online community www.triiibes.com. As with the best of things, it was a team effort. Thanks to everyone involved.

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21 ingredients for a sustainable community

  1. 1. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 2 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  2. 2. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community What makes a sustainable community If you’re part of a community you’ll know there are some things about being in one that are very rewarding. Communities create critical mass. They offer compound effects of contribution and belonging. They have momentum and meaning. This rewarding nature is why businesses and societies benefit from being tribal in nature. Whether a community is an amateur or professional one, whether it’s based on a lifestyle, an ambition, a cause or an interest, there are certain ingredients that enable a community to stick together and thrive. Communities are coming of age in a socially-capitalized world, where the steps we take to meet each other through technology are tiny. They’re happening on the basis of interests and affinities. Technology is making the creation of common purpose more possible. All of these things are enabling new forms of value. It’s unlikely you’ll find a community that has all the characteristics listed in here, but if you want to build a sustainable community, or be part of a great one, thinking about some of these ingredients is a pretty good place to start. 2 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  3. 3. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 1. They’re always about something Great communities are always born from a sense wanting to connect with others about something. That means having clarity of purpose, a passion, a cause, great questions to answer, interesting challenges to solve and a common sense of direction. September 2008 2. They do something new A strong community is likely to be about doing something new more than about business as usual. They tend to be progressive, and there’s a rush of excitement in doing something that hasn’t been done before that bonds community members together. 3. They have good leader(s) A good community leader is benign, trusted and respected by its members. Community leaders act as a kind of totem and are valued as such. The skill of a good community leader lies in their lightness of touch. They provide ongoing sprinkles of stimulation and support. The best ones inspire others to lead unselfishly and point out examples of greatness to follow in other community members. 3 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  4. 4. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 4. They have a strong identity The power of a community lies in its provenance. Whether that comes through common ancestry, shared interests, experience, beliefs, geography, profession, shared problems, religion, or philosophy, it’s there. A strong community understands its origin and has a coherent identity which makes the community congruent. September 2008 5. They have at least one ritual or initiation Initiation processes have a role to play, as do small rituals. They help to get the right people through the door. Rituals encourage respect and commitment for the community as a whole and the part each person plays within it. 6. They have a place to gather A place where everyone goes makes a community a destination, a meeting place and a territory that members can call their own. It acts as a shelter, a launching pad and a soft place to fall. 4 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  5. 5. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 7. All for one and one for all A strong sustainable community is one where members’ own self-interests are aligned with the common purpose of the community as a whole. Being involved in the community is bigger than being in it for oneself. When egos are left at the door, community members are free to be creative and brave. September 2008 8. Strong communities have members that respect one another They believe that each and every member has the potential to make an important contribution to the success and positive evolution of the community at any given moment. Other viewpoints can be taken in effortlessly and, as such, everyone is encouraged to participate. Tolerance and mutual respect exists for different points of view. 9. Everybody in Sustainable communities are self-regulating phenomena lead by a common cause. They’re able to attract a membership on that basis. The community is prepared to change when its members change, and anyone can join. It’s a level of commitment that’s accessible to all. 5 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  6. 6. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 10. Focus Having a focus and staying on topic matters. Those communities that set out and work together to achieve this provide real value. Focus is a sign of there being a collective common involvement, it’s a sign of dedication and vitality. Focus shapes the energy the community has at any given moment. September 2008 11. Multiple opportunities to get involved A community that thrives offers many ways to participate and to get involved. It provides choice and variety in the way its members can engage. It might be through blogs, discussions, meetings, groups, features or separate projects within the tribe, there’s always a wide variety of different ways in which members can contribute. 12. Charity matters Charity is recognized as important and giving is its own reward. There’s a willingness to share, to give as much as to receive and to ‘spread the stroke’. 6 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  7. 7. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 13. There’s a sense of individual ownership In a powerful community, high levels of individual ownership and collective responsibility co-exist simultaneously. It makes the community produce great results for its members and, at the same time, generates pride in the activity that’s being created together. 14. Collective conscience Strong communities are aware of what, and what not, to accept in the best interests of the community. Explicit and implicit communication articulates and confirms this from time to time. This communication comes from the leader (s) and also from the group as a whole, it upholds the common values that the community has together. 15. Not standing still Strong communities are responsive, they innovate and evolve over time. They look after the new and the young " as the path to the future. A strong community is open to new ideas and enriching experiences as part of a continuous process of renewal. The leader encourages new leaders and continuity is seen as an essential communal ingredient. 7 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  8. 8. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 16. Strong communities questions themselves They don’t shirk the difficult stuff. They re-evaluate ethical issues in an open, honest and ongoing fashion. The self-questioning community builds integrity in this way and becomes something its members can believe in. Self-questioning in a community validates the community and create a process of perpetuation. September 2008 17. Resilience The strongest of all communities have resilience built into the way they do things. They value their heritage, and when things get tough the stronger ones look after the weaker ones by passing on their experience. 18. ‘Light-bulb’ moments People form strong and powerful bonds when memorable, character-forming, and high-value shared experiences happen in a community. Light-bulb moments uncover something deep within individual members, and collectively, as part of a shared rite of passage. 8 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  9. 9. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community 19. Measurement of worth In the most powerful of communities, their value can be measured in two ways, by being able to gauge the value of belonging to the community for its members, and by measuring its communal value as a collective, based on what matters to it and the outside world. September 2008 20. Fun to be a part of Forget the serious stuff for a moment; strong communities are addictive and are great simply because they’re fun to be in. Fun communities that aren’t heavy-going attract people want to join, and when people want to join, being in the community becomes even more special. 21. Nothing is impossible Strong communities offer the belief and the hope that the opportunity to exceed expectations is present. They enhance and nurture their people by providing strength in numbers. This way, they go beyond existing limitations together. 9 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business
  10. 10. 21 ingredients for a sustainable community Acknowledgments This document has been produced as the result of a collective discussion held by members of www.triiibes.com, Seth Godin’s online community for learning, sharing, growing and incubating the great tribes and sustainable communities of the future. September 2008 Credit and thanks go to Seth as an exemplary case of a leader who has inspired, encouraged and empowered his tribe and given everyone who’s a part of www.triiibes.com the courage and the enthusiasm to do the same for theirs. About the Author Anne McCrossan is a founder member of www.triiibes.com, a professional marketer specializing in identity and organizational strategy and development in an age of change. She’s the founder of Visceral Business, a social business consultancy that specializes in building the leadership potential and social capital value of brands. She can be contacted on anne@visceralbusiness.com. Born on date This document was created on 12th October 2008. Created by Anne McCrossan and Seth Godin. 10 21 Ingredients for a Sustainable Community | © Visceral Business