What does community mean to you?

That word is thrown around a lot in our industry, building communities and all that. I think sometimes it is used as an empty buzzword, and other times as an accurate description of a gathering of like minded people.

The community, any community is made of disparate souls with their own self serving interests, but those interests more or less align themselves in some fashion that provides the glue to keep the community together and hopefully growing. As long as the community means something, and I dare say stands for something “bigger”, a higher purpose if you will, it will flourish. The nay-sayers, dividers, and ignorant take the stupid with them as they leave.

Within a broader community like business, there are subsets like the web crowd, the retailers, and the bean counters. At Social Media Club tonight, (after Sally‘s awesome preso), Francine Hardaway brought up an issue that faces all communities: how to outreach from the subset to influence, educate, and embrace the broader community that shares common edges with the subset. What is the answer here?

At Gangplank, the focus is community. Nurturing a new one into life.  People there are looking to do something bigger, better, awesomer, with more collaboration, more outreach, more education, and less bullshit. The form of community outreach there involves an open door that invites everyone to participate. There are photographers, web marketers, muscians, and the occasional mortgage meltdown refugee sharing the free co-working space. How do we take it to the next level? How does a group of smart, driven people break down the walls that from our side seem paper thin, but from others; appears as thick and unyielding as a brick. Does one build a ladder over the wall, a bridge around it, or do you quietly infiltrate the headquarters of the old guard establishment and drop a few percussion grenades to snap them out of their idea and energy deprived coma?

At what level does community leadership become a hindrance? Is taking a hands off approach akin to letting the insane run the asylum? Or is it necessary for some form of leadership, to establish a clear mission and objective that everyone can rally behind. You need the detail minded and big thinkers,  as well as the disruptors and technicians. What is that happy medium between input and mutiny?

One advocate shouting from the soapbox touches few, an army marching in the streets stops traffic. A coordinated campaign of education makes communities grow.

Welcome to the knowledge economy.  Participate, collaborate, and grow.. or die tryin.