Unfortunately, community has become somewhat of a buzzword. I guess the majority of Gen X's, LinkedIn users, and today's most-innovative companies finally accepted the fact that millennials are crazy about it.
With co-working methods continuously validated and study after study after study about the positive affects of doing life with other people, it's safe to say that community is far more than social trend. And I'm confident we are only scraping the surface of what it means to dive into authentic community, contribute to it, and watch what happens when everyone involved works out of the strengths of everyone else participating.
However, finding authentic community can be difficult. We attempt to insert ourselves into awkward social experiences or strike up conversations with people we'd like to be connected to; instead, we all too ungracefully stumble just short of making any sort of impressionable or meaningful connection. Especially if you have something weird taking up billboard space in your teeth.
In the end, we wind up forfeiting all efforts and find ourselves trudging along hoping the right relationship will bump into us at just the right time. Spoiler alert: it usually doesn't happen this way.
Discovering and walking with authentic community takes considerable attention to details, extreme vulnerability, and the utmost generosity. But what are the signs of authentic community you should be looking for before you invest yourself so deeply? Here's a short list...
1) Authentic community welcomes new people.
While exclusivity works well for getting people to purchase a new product or get into a night club, it doesn't bode well when trying to connect people to a specific, purposeful mission. If you want to have people join into and believe in what your'e doing, you must remain inclusive. Most people, especially millennials, want to be a part of something that enables them to share in the journey they are on with other people they care about. Authentic community does not have a max capacity - there should always be room for someone else who may need what your community has to offer.
2) Authentic community collaborates with others.
I don't care what side of the political spectrum you fall into, I feel we can all agree that our political community is growing increasingly divided. There are a number of reasons as to why, but one of the biggest is that political leaders are largely focused on their own agendas and not willing to work alongside, communicate about, and compromise with those who may disagree. Unfortunately, this mindset has creeped into other communities as well. It's why there are crises that go unsolved for years and issues that get swept under the rug. Before genuine change can take place in any industry, leaders must recognize the need for intentional collaboration regarding policies, procedures, structures, and decisions. Collaborative leadership focused on shared success can make a difference.
3) Authentic community empowers those on the same mission.
Competitor does not always equal enemy. Just because someone else has a similar mission or idea or burden you do, does not mean they can not (and should not) be your friend, mentor, or confidant. The opinions, methods, structure, and opportunities are likely very different from yours. This fact leaves both of you with an opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve mutual influence in different capacities. As I've stated before, the quickest path to success is the path that leads other people to it.
4) Authentic community does not just include other people, it involves them.
As I stated in #1, your community must be willing to welcome new people. However, if you welcome new people yet fail to involve them into the mission of your community, you've stated that what they have to offer the community is not valuable. Thus, you've never truly invited them in at all. You must be willing to listen to those who are a part of your community and involve them into the mission you are trying to live out. When you involve others, you extend the reach and the legacy of the community you have the privilege to be a part of.
At the end of the day, the success of your community will only go as far as the success of those within it. Encourage the influence of others and carry out the mission of your community by leading and engaging others in all you do.
What do you think about this list? What would you add as a characteristic of authentic community?