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.
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.