What will be the buzz word (or phrase) of 2007?This question by Steven Burda on a social network prompted me to launch the Concepts series.
My answer: Community.
2.0, YouTube, Flickr, glocalization - whatever. It's "community." I also suggest "Local" as an off-shoot concept of the above.
There are two broad applications of this concept: one in the virtual world of Internet, and one in the real world.
Communities 2.0 - the virtual world
The child of social networking sites meeting user-content driven (web 2.0) websites: communities.
Built around common interests, preferences, or themes, communities are virtual spaces that bring together like-minded folks. On social networking sites such as Orkut and user-content driven spaces like Flickr, users can quickly and easily create thematic communities that attract the interested.
Unlike the older days of the Web, these "2.0" (new Web) communities are self-regulating and flexible. Rules are minimal, and members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with them, and regulate their own behavior. Individuals moderate or own the communities; the success of their "leadership" depends directly upon their abilities and acceptance by the members. A badly regulated, dismal communities dies by attracting no members, who are free to "settle" into another space or create their own. Good leadership - determined by the leader's tolerance, inclusiveness, conflict resolution, and community marketing skills - leads to healthy, growing communities that attract both members and participation. Charisma works.
Communities are small localities and nations in their own right. This is why I suggest that the Internet is the blueprint for a truly human(e) government. (Internet - government of the people: Here and here.)
Because of their open nature and inclusiveness of opinion, communities offer real insights into social life. Thanks to technology, they are fast-paced, ever-evolving, and allow for quick spread of info. Communities also change their form quickly to suit a campaign or project.
This is why, truly savvy change leaders and marketers are taking note of the phenomenon. The Future of Communities is a blog branched out from the upcoming Community 2.0 Conference. It's all about communities and their growing power in the new world of Internet.
Community - local neighborhoods of the real life world
In RL, communities are making a big comeback.
Caring. Giving. Sharing. Giving back. Participating. Responsibility. Local - all these once discarded social concepts are back, and they are here to stay.
There is a growing concern about the rise of "ethnic clash" in the world. I see it the other way. I think that for the first time in human history, the not-so-privileged ethnicities are respecting themselves and understanding that they are as equal as any other human. They are not condemned.
On the other hand, the privileged world, having enough of all resources possible, is looking for "meaning". On the one hand, their excessive resources are going to war. On the other hand, there are people who have taken it upon themselves to give back to the world: within their own community, and then globally - depending upon each individual's circle of influence. This is leading to the growing trend for nomadic lifestyle, often mixed with philanthropy or volunteer work.
This is the larger picture. On smaller levels, the "have's" - especially the youth - are giving back to their communities. The more experienced are realizing that they have to invest in the youth and in building neighborhoods. Only in this lies the safety of people, and any hope for restoring peace and minimizing crime.
Respect for one's own culture, the realization that we have to work together in neighborhoods and that we can't demand rights without performing duties, the sense of delight in serving, freedom with responsibility and a new respect for family and society's institutions (more open, more flexible, more inclusive) - are the highlights of this emerging concept.
Top: Flickr user Cobalt123, Bestgraph, 2005
Bottom: Flickr user carf (Gregory J. Smith), Friendships - 1, 2005
E-mail: nextbyramla AT gmail.com