Toral: Belonging in the social economy

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I AM reading “The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation,” which is written by Jono Bacon. Its story-telling style got me confused at the start but I later realized that the author is a veteran on the topic. The book is a good read for anyone wanting to learn how to develop communities.

Jono said that “belonging” is an important word that all community builders have to keep in mind and strive for. It is what keeps people engaged. It is the reason why people join communities.

If members benefit from being part of a community through their giving, receiving, and sharing of each other’s social capital (knowledge, influence etc), then it benefits the community as a whole.

Communities that thrive have members who believe in it. That will not happen overnight. For DigitalFilipino Club, it remains a work in progress ever since the group started in 2003. I keep pushing every year to explore various ways. The good steps get institutionalized.

With social media, it is now easier to communicate the community benefits and even help those who were not able to actually attend gatherings or activities. Processes need to be clear to members and managers must ensure that policies will be fair.

As Bacon mentioned in his book, what community managers actually do is “enable” members to become the best they can be, achieve ambitions, work with peers to achieve shared personal goals and of the community itself.

The kind of community that I got myself involved in are not necessarily conversationalists. In DigitalFilipino, they are not the noisy ones in the forum. But during face-to-face interactions or one-on-one email, they can be relied upon and are active. Sooner or later, I notice that members start talking to each other personally, too.

Community leaders have trust as their primary commodity. That is why although it is easy to form a group, making it grow is another story altogether. The quiet DigitalFilipino community grew through its strongest social capital currency – knowledge sharing in trainings and conferences, listening during consultation session and giving relevant insights. The people who participate get to know each other and build relationships. Those who pursue their own projects also get help to achieve their own goals.

I share Bacon’s belief that ego and entitlement usually come in as a reason why some community managers fail or hardly grow. The moment you see yourself as “the only one deserving,” members will start expanding their choices, may start ignoring or avoiding you, or worst, abandon you altogether. Rather than dominate, I decided to be more supportive and give all the knowledge I can share to the community despite my limited time and resource. As a result, the community remained afloat and relevant to its loyal following. (http://digitalfilipino.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 03, 2012.

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