Gated Culture

Continuing a series of reflections around the Socially Dynamic Organisation, today looking at aspects of culture and, in particular, to expand out the notion of the gated culture: one to which there is a high barrier to entry, but high trust once you are inside it.

Gated Culture

If ‘community’ is a term that we can use to describe a group of people with some shared values and purpose, ‘culture’ is the term we can use to describe the emergent social rules, behaviours, ‘norms’ and exclusions that are layered on top of it.

I subscribe to a notion of co-created culture: that the lived experience is true culture, and that anything published by an organisation on a poster or plastered to the walls of the elevator is a statement of aspiration. Aspirational culture is what we want, lived culture is what we get. The Organisational view of culture may provide a frame, but the actions of every individual in the moment provide the context and content.

Aspiration vs Culture

And culture evolves: through circumstance and changed membership. Culture is not a static artefact, but rather a lived experience. Membership may be conferred, assumed or earned, depending upon context: if i join a community with a distinct culture and, through some kind of ritual, am conferred membership, then i am placed within the expectant frame, but it’s through my actions within that frame that i get to keep my membership. For example, when joining a new organisation, i will have the aspirational culture explained to me, and i may be conferred the trappings of culture (a uniform, tokens of status or membership, position within a hierarchy), but it’s only through my actions that i will get to keep them. I must ‘live up to’ the culture, or earn the right to belong.

Maybe there is a period of apprenticeship in every culture? A period when status is conferred but not yet confirmed?

Some cultures have low barriers to entry, others, very high. Indeed, some may be gated. High trust cultures based upon strong expertise, strong shared experience, strongly coherent values.

Veteran organisations, for example, have membership based upon service, upon lived experience. There is no shortcut to the type of trust required to be a member. The barrier to entry is not money but loyal service. Indeed, military organisations may exhibit a gated culture: both physically and socially. The high walls and fences are on the outside: but once you are in, once you are accepted, you find high trust, highly coherent, highly generous culture inside.

Contrast that with some open cultures, where the barrier entry is very low, or very loose: it’s in these contexts that we can see more fragmented culture.

I’ll explore other types of culture over the next few days as i #WorkOutLoud and build out further aspects of the Socially Dynamic Framework. My aim is not to build a coherent framework yet, but to explore a little further, then draw it together.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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7 Responses to Gated Culture

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