In it’s simplest form, a community is defined as a unified body of individuals. In it’s most powerful, it is a force that can accomplish almost any goal.
In the world of business, our professional communities are where we go to exchange ideas, to study, to learn, and to bond together to address major issues.
Our customer communities can give us insight into how our products work,or how they should. If we take the time to listen, user communities can light the way along the path to innovation.
Without community there can be no innovation. It is our community that accepts our invention, validates it, accepts it and adopts it. Then and only then is innovation truly real.
But the power of community is not limited to business – it is around us in every corner of our lives. Community can be family. For many it is the congregation of those who share beliefs and faith in something greater than themselves.
And today, in our evolving technology world, we are seeing new communities emerge across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, connecting people – many who have never met or may never meet in real life -but yet hold common interests, form bonds, and support each other in a myriad of ways.
Sometimes community relationships last a life time, and in others they form and disband quickly after the need or project has has passed. But while the community exists, it can be a powerful force and a source of inspiration.
For me, great examples of the power of what communities can do are all around. Here are just a few:
The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation
OTEF started when Francine Hardaway set out on a mission to help at risk populations find self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship. She reached out to her community of friends and to the greater community of entrepreneurs for help. Projects like this need funding – so in the true spirit of entrepreneurs – they created a product and took it to the marketplace. In this case that product was the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences. Each year entrepreneurs gather to hear ideas from others on what it takes to build a community, to launch businesses, and to realize goals. ALL of the speakers donate their time and talents, and ALL of the conference proceeds go to support OTEF’s mission. Now going into it’s fourth year, entrepreneurial leaders like Michael Gerber, Pat Sullivan, Gary Vaynerchuck, Robert Scoble, and Matt Mullenwig have shared the stage with over 100 local CEOS, all sharing ideas while supporting OTEF in making a difference.
Some late night musings, evolved into a blog post on how to be original. With an idea that it would be fun to share original ideas with friends in a place where we could all find them, I blogged it as Why #BeOriginal to let my friends know. Over time a community formed across the broader Twitter community made up of people who love to share their own ideas with others. Just look at all the insights that have been shared to date and with more and more coming every day. Another friend helped set up a TWUB so we could make the sharing even easier.
Communities lend a hand
Not long ago, a friend experienced one of the deepest of tragedies – the loss of his son at a time when on top of the emotional burden, the financial one was more that he could handle. Members of his community came together – not just to offer friendship – but to offer dollars to help with the funeral expenses. The call went out across Twitter and Facebook, and the community responded.
But it is not just in times of sorrow. Communities can gather to celebrate wonderful events, the birth of a child, an anniversary, or a wedding.
It was a converging of communities that inspired this blog post.
I read a story, written by a young Mom, that I had come to know through our exchanges on BloggersBase. Her name is Kathryn and she writes as Kaytii or RMS Snowdrop. On 9/11 she shared a story – Open Your Hearts to a Stranger. In it she told the story of a young couple who were planning to get married. They had two other special people in their lives – their best man and maid of honor. The couple wanted to share their joy and special day with these two important people.
Then came the news that the best man would be deploying to Afghanistan. To have him at the wedding, they would have to move up the date by almost a year! Financially, they were not ready. Good friends decided to help. Through online communities, people have come together to offer little things, small donations of money, a topper for the wedding cake, help with flowers, and simple things to help make the young couple’s dream come true. The wonder of it is that many of these people have never met each other, and maybe never will.
But together they are a community – people bonding together at a place in time – to make a difference.
I think I like that definition of community best of all.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…
Author’s Note: After reading’s Kaytii’s story about Shauna and Derrick, I sent her a tweet with my phone number and suggested we talk. We got together on the phone and shared ideas on how we could help make a dream come true. One of the ideas was to share her message with my community – adding it to hers. And that is what I just did.
Oh, and I also DID make a contribution to the wedding fund. If you would like to share in a little piece of the community that is trying to grant a very simple wish – here is the link.