My niece described her Guides group to me at the weekend: she talked about how it had been small, and had high levels of engagement, but that recently it had grown in size, and that something had been lost. More people did not mean a more active, engaged, and friendly community. In fact, it meant the opposite.

The Projection and Failure of Trust

Why would this be? Are more people not better? Possibly two key factors come into play: the initial group formed in one go, so they had shared experience, building shared values, whilst the newcomers entered a coherent community, so experienced high social consequence for engagement. I’m visualising this through two key pieces of writing about ‘trust’ that i’ve shared recently.

The very coherence of the initial group may have led to the lack of engagement from the new group, whilst the presence of the new group disrupted the trusted space of the existing one. The result: constraint, stagnation, and possibly the disruption of death fo a community. Or possibly the conversation just moved elsewhere.

I’m finding the investigation, into the Landscape of Trust, as well as the wider dynamics of socially connected systems, to be fascinating. I doubt we can model or predict the behaviour of complex, multi dimensional, social systems. But we can consider the conditions into which they may emerge, and the methods by which we can help them to thrive. So we can consider now how we can own and control them, but rather how we can enable them, and facilitate them to thrive. And that will involve learning how they form, are shaped, or destroyed.

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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4 Responses to Strangers

  1. Ian Blake says:

    It would be interesting to ‘revisit’ this and see how your niece’s feelings, and the group dynamics have changed over time. Is this just the classic reaction to change as modelled by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross where people go through Denial – Resistance – Exploration – Commitment? It is the same as can be experienced in business when two teams are merged.

  2. Gail Radecki says:

    I have to be honest–my first thought was that it was a bunch of girls, resistant to admitting new girls to their closed group. I have never been very comfortable in groups that were all female, so my perspective is perhaps a bit jaded, but then that made me think about sameness. When we are part of a small, relatively homogeneous group, do we tend to be less welcoming of ‘interlopers,’ even when they are like ourselves, than when we are part of a more diverse group? To clarify: When we are in mixed company (gender, age, race, religion, etc.), if we are in a group for a shared purpose are we more accepting of newcomers to that group than we would be if we were in a homogeneous group for the same reason?

  3. Pingback: Story Sharing: The Perils of Power | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: What Is Community For? A #WorkingOutLoud Post | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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