These days Community Building seems to be centred around the digital spheres rather than the localised. I remember my disappointment when ‘Community Manager and Developer’ became synonymous with Social Media Management. It made me really sad, that more and more of the world was moving online away from our geographies, innate human connections; abandoning touch, smell and deep conversation. Back then I used to believe that digital communities were a little alienating and odd. That was way before COVID 19. I don’t think Zoom even existed. Now I feel less inclined to agree. You see Social Media seems to have done something rather extraordinary. It has filled in the soul-sucking emptiness that can accompany our physical geographies. Beyond Zoom fatigue life seems brighter more connected online. At least mine anyway.
How did that happen? Maybe it’s because we can delete all the people we don’t like and even have the occasional Facebook cull. So that we can live in a blissful Twittersphere. Yet we wonder why the world is becoming more polarised? Maybe we are becoming less able to handle conflict or accept differences. Remember the days of when you had to apologise to people in the pub? That was and is a thing. What if we all learned to apologise more or even better, thank people for there difference of opinion. Only yesterday I was talking about my experience of living in South Africa, where the relative safety of monoculture is largely obsolete. A place where we cant presume what people think or why they might think it because cultural diversity is an actual things there. We cant make people wrong just because we don’t agree with them.
This is exactly why community building is important. We need opportunities to meet, collaborate and resolve. We need to find ways in which to connect and find each other again. If COVID 19 has taught us anything it’s got to be that cuddles are important, human contact is important, intergenerational relationships are important. outdoor spaces are important, good quality housing is important and of course Black Live Matter. Yes Pro-human systems are important. We live in times now where we have to explain this to one another. Human life matters. Black Lives Matter. Isn’t this the very nature of community? That we value one another. Isn’t this the very nature of fulfilment? High-quality relationships. That we should be able to relate to one another. Imagine you were just able to to have a conversation with a total stranger and not fall out with one another. Imagine that you were able to create something based on common interest? I usually like to build my relationships based on shared common humanity. Why does that feel revolutionary right now? Yet at the same time I deeply acknowledge that our shared common humanity is very much built from a space of service. How can I be of service to you?
When it comes to building community in my experience it so often starts with creating the things that we need for ourselves. I find that in that process we meet the needs of others. That if we can turn up for ourselves we are able to support others. That by connecting to our needs we connect to others.
Regular meetings can create a real point of stabilisation of the more fragile. Land-based local gatherings can also provide a great amount of balance for those living in chaos. If COVID 19 has taught us anything we should all just get to know our neighbours. Still, at the centre of all that, we also need to make sure that we are able to hold ourselves as co-collaborators with love in creating a new world.