In my last post I related a number of proven characteristics that define Dying Communities v Successful Communities.
The differences between communities that prosper and those that flounder are often tied very closely to the expansiveness, inclusiveness and diversity of “The Network” – the social fabric – within that community.
Which of course leads one to ask: “So how do we build a stronger, larger, more vibrant network?”
I suggest we do so by intentionally practicing community-minded behavior and incorporating this behavior into our networking.
Here are 10 ways you can begin the work of building your community by bringing value to others in the community development network. (Thanks to the Pomegranate Center for this list…)
1. Take interest in other people’s passions as much as you want them to be interested in yours.
We all have ideas for how life should be. The thing is that, unless we are unsurpassed geniuses, we only see a small part of the picture. Asking others what they see can only enhance understanding.
2. Become a mentor to others less involved in their community.
In every community there is a small, overworked group of leaders who try to figure out everything for everyone. This will not do. If you are such a leader, mentor someone with less experience. If you are not, approach someone and ask them to mentor you.
3. Support a cause with no direct personal benefit.
We are involved with the things we care about the most. That’s natural. My experience tells me, however, that the most interesting and possibly most important discoveries happen in the spaces between interests and disciplines and ideologies. Step outside your natural zone and your comfort zone… it’s necessary for uncovering new solutions.
4. Invite “them” to your meeting.
It is convenient to show our importance by pitting “us” against “them.” But “they” may have insights that will help us better understand the problem and appreciate the marvelous tensions that form a healthy community.
5. Reject the tendency to blame.
Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution. Practice compassion towards those, who, like ourselves, unwittingly contribute to the problem they wish to solve.
6. Confront internal contradictions.
Claiming the problem is someone else’s doing only conveniently absolves us from doing our part. If I drive my car and complain about traffic jams, it’s necessary that I acknowledge my contribution to that traffic.
7. Practice industrial-strength listening.
Do not react until you’ve listened to, heard and digested the information and viewpoints of everyone around you. You’ll be much wiser for it, and appreciated by others as a considerate and knowledgeable participant.
8. Render unto community…
Shrink your home to what is necessary and conduct the rest of your life in the community. Invest in things that integrate you into your community.
9. Clarify your image of the future.
I find that most decisions we make are shaped by impulses so deeply ingrained we fail to be aware of them. Unexamined impulse is prejudice. Examined impulse, once confirmed, is guidance that leads to something better. Examine your embedded assumptions, embrace the relevant ones and discard the rest. What remains is a clear intuition, an image of a possible future. Then engage with others to make it a reality.
10. Resist the temptation to choose between the ideal and the reality.
Hold them both in your awareness. Learn to enjoy the creativity and humor this tension offers. It can be quite funny. It’s not an either/or decision – it’s an and/plus opportunity.