In thinking about community development, I’m starting to wonder about the importance of crisis or challenge or struggle. Why is it that when people talk about the groupings that matter to them, they often talk about a common crisis experience that deepened relationships?
A group of people spend a week on a work project in Mississippi. In cthe course of filling a house with drywall, relationships develop. One person decides to go to on a trip alone to a restricted country. Another person gets connected to a church and starts pulling ohter people along. Another person figures out new things about career paths. There are indiviudal benefits from the struggle in community, and the relationships in the group have long-term repercussions. What happened? A week away from the normal flow of life, a shared task, physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.
A couple walks through a difficult time and emerges better able to handle future struggles.
A couple people interested in podcasting decide to create an event against all odds. They recruit a handful of other people and and then just make the thing happen. A shared task, apparently insurmountable obstacles (no sponsors at first, change of venue, a changed-up concept). As a result, the concept has spread around the world in 8 months. And the original crew are still talking.
Countries go through times of religious repression and groups of believers emerge at the end in amazing numbers and with incredible resilience.
How important is struggle for creating community or, as Alan Hirsch says, communitas? As we are wanting to develop deeper relationships between people, do we need to foster struggle?
What would that look like? For real-space clusters of humans that’s easy. We do service projects. We look at the struggles of life as helpful (sickness, accident, job loss) for community by allowing people to bring the struggle into the group (no more silent endurance).
How do we have community-forming struggles for online communities? If we can’t, do they count as communities? Do we just resign ourselves to lonely moments in hotel hallways searching for wifi?
What would happen if we pushed hard for meetups that weren’t just social events but were intended to solve a problem, meet a challenge, make a difference? What if there were a partnership between podcasters and foodbanks or Habitat for Humanity. Everyone in a region showed up at 50 different habitat home projects to work on the home AND to cover the construction in new media? There would be content that mattered, that was common, but with 1000 different perspectives. The project is incredibly local AND national. There is room for audio and video and flickr and everything else. There is little problem with confilicting ideologies. And people end up with houses. People work with people in real space. (And, I suppose, there could be a corresponding village in Second Life).
So, what do you think. Can we create communitas, a deeper level of community?
Does this get us out of the fishbowl?