Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to build community

Our marina community at a recent pirate party.

Community: one of those big words that can mean a lot depending on your vantage point. Tag a few words to it and it gets even bigger.

Community supported agriculture
Community Development Corporation
Community Network Center
Community Room
Facebook community
Church community
Neighborhood community group
Marina community
Boating community


Community changes over the years.

  • Babies: They like their moms and dads.
  • Preschoolers: They still like their moms and dads but are also figuring out that other kids are fun too.
  • Grade-schoolers: Moms and dads, friends too.
  • Teenager: Mo- and who? Friends.
  • College: Friends and teary calls home asking for a bank deposit.
  • Twenties: Friends, and now colleagues.
  • Thirties: Friends with kids. Colleagues. Parents and siblings.
  • Forties: Ditto.
  • Fifties: Friends and colleague.
  • Sixties to ??: Friends, siblings, and kids.

The basic: community is people getting together. We all need it. Almost all of us want it. But how do we build it? How do we find community that matters and how do we build that community into a lasting network of people, resources, and support?  Hint: Facebook helps, but you've got to get up off the couch and get out there.

Figure out what you like to do, or what you spend the most time doing, and then find people with similar interests and schedules. And then, here's the key, put yourself out there. Make phone calls. Send emails. Send texts. Invite people over for dinner. Meet at the bar. Meet for lunch. Organize a picnic in the park. Keep inviting,  (but don't turn into a crazy stalker), keep organizing, keep planning. Set up a weekly potluck or drinks hour. A circle of friends will develop around similar interests and before you know it, bam! You'll have community.

Proximity. Spontaneity. Repeat, frequent meetings. These are three elements to making friends, and to making a community.

Social media, like Facebook and Meetup, is awesome for community building. It's easy to create a group: Shuffleboarders of the Greater Boise Area, for example. People can go online, find others with similar interests, "meet" in a non-threatening space (online), and organize activities for anyone to join. Fear of rejection is minimal because you've already been accepted, per se, by virtue of joining the group. Activities are easy to organize and contacts are quickly made.

Get online, then get out there. Make new friends, find new things to do. We all need a tight circle of friends, but then we all need that bigger group of friends and acquaintances to inspire us, encourage us, entertain us, and support us.

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