No-one can agree on a community. Is it defined by political geography? Physical geography? Economic geography? Interest, practice, culture? So how do we use such an elusive, slippery yet, for some of us, attractive and powerful concept.
Well, personally I have given up worrying about how ‘communities’ are defined by outsiders (politicians, funders, missionaries of various kinds, what Paul Theroux calls the Dark Angels of Virtue). The only thing that matters for me is the individual, or the usually small group sat in front of me, and their perception of their community, defined their way. Any other attempt to work with the concept for me is just hot air. We all define community personally and, very probably, uniquely.
But that does not make the concept useless. Quite the opposite.
I spend a lot of time helping people to look at the relationships and contexts that they are a part of and the extent to which they help or hinder them to become the kind of person that they wish to become, accomplishing the things that they most wish to accomplish. And I will spend time working with them on how they can get more of the support that they need from their ‘community’. I spend a lot of time and energy building networks of people who just love to ‘help’. Many of these networks are a blend of face to face and online – mediated through blogs and social networks as well as through a range of meetings, gatherings and parties. And I try to connect individuals from one network into individuals from another, so that help can start to flow across and between different groups.
So first we have to find self interest. That which really matters personally. That which shapes who we are. That on which our identity is based and through which it can be constructively shaped.
Then we have to find common cause and build networks and relationships where we can successfully negotiate our self interest. We then forge connections between these networks to build a diverse, resourceful ‘community’ of individuals who are helping and being helped as part of their daily practice. Surely this puts us firmly on the trail of the enterprising community?
And for great things to happen people have to learn to help each other. The stereotype of the selfish backstabbing ‘Apprentice’ does not thrive in an enterprising community – though they may do well in The City. Successful citizens in the enterprising community learn to associate, collaborate, cooperate and mutualise. To find those with whom there is a common cause. And they understand that giving hep to others is as important as getting help themselves. The have the Go-Giver mindset and they express it through their actions. They live it.
So, as those who attended Enterprising Community: Big Conversation explored, enterprising community is not a place or a neighbourhood but a philosophy, that can be summed up as ‘Concentrate on yourself and helping your neighbour’.