What is community?

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I’m going to start excerpting posts from the past seven years. “What is community?” was originally posted on September 23, 2008.

I participated in a session with The Committee of 200 and a (male) commenter wrote, “I am troubled by women (or men) only groups. I think exclusion hurts everyone,
including members of the exclusive group.

Is this true?

What is community?

Communities are groups of people defined and separated by common interest.  A community’s core looks like yin and yang, relying on supporters and detractors to define inclusion and exclusion.  In the UK, Conservatives wouldn’t be Conservatives unless the Labour and Liberals existed.  Red Sox Nation needs its Evil Empire.  The survivors of Oceanic 815 need The Others.

Communities need barriers to entry – whether natural or artificial.  Does being human make you part of a community?  Ask your dog or cat.  Green marketers would have us think so.  Hollywood, too.

Your corporate community connects all the time – company meetings, hallway conversations, and via email or phone.  However, when it comes to external communication and connections, companies operate like a jail, preventing contact with the outside world and releasing inmates every evening into the community, returning to lock-up the next morning.

So what’s so tough about enabling connections in corporate communities with social technology?  I.e. allowing the company to connect with the outside world during the day instead of only every night during work release? Most companies operate like castles with moats.  Moreover, many brands secretly fear that connecting with the community will lead to dilution and destruction.


Bavarian castle 1


It’s notable that castles today aren’t seats of power, but are maintained as reminders of a distant past. So this commenter is spot on that “exclusion hurts everyone, including members of the exclusive group” – especially when the corporation acts like a closed off group and the community is excluded.



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