We were in a conversation today about establishing communities when Laura reminded me about ‘Friendship Books‘. A thing of our childhood, before the days of t’internet, the premise was this: a book, made of actual paper, where you wrote a page about yourself. You put your address, your phone number and a little bit about you, then posted or gave it to a friend. They did the same and passed it on. In time, the chains grew longer, and as they did so, you could browse through second, third and fourth degrees of separation. And if you liked the look of someone, you could write to them and make friends.
Happy days, and yet how much has really changed. Today, communities sit at the heart of the Social Age: we curate our communities as we go. But many of the principles that were there with friendship books remain: we are investing trust, we are taking leaps of faith around identity, we are disclosing things personal to us in the hope we find shared values, shared purpose. The mechanics of community have changed less than we may think, even if today the dynamics are facilitated by technology and not postage stamps.
Communities do not grow by accident: they are nurtured or driven, by desire or need. They are not purposeless and, without being given purpose, they cannot thrive.
So the day spent looking at how we establish organisational communities, whilst forward facing, was strangely reflective. Put value in the people, not the technology, was the message i took from it.