Recently I was at an Ecotrust convening (resilienceregions.org) where roughly 50 environmental leaders from across the world came together to discuss new models for economic development and conservation. What unfolded was an amazing collection of inspirational stories, shared values and a desire to stay connected. Most of us walked away honored to be part of the experience, but also looking for some structure that would allow us to continue our newfound friendships and achieve something larger than our individual efforts.
This is a classic story. We all go to conferences, galas, dinners, parties and workshops where we are excited by the sense of joining this new, passionate community but soon let down by the limited ability to sustain and enhance the experience.
What we’re craving is a network: the action-oriented structures on top of the values, bonds and purpose of the community.
That structure usually looks something like this:
– an inspiring goal that feeds the emotional needs of your community
– a big-picture vision that justifies people’s desire to participate
– the mechanism that enables participation, be it a contest, stated goal, etc.
– public recognition and/or monetary compensation
Of course, getting the characteristics of the network right is not easy. First, you have to ask yourself: who is your community? What do they care about? That will help you define the goal and the network you build to achieve it.