Much of Western culture is about the ‘celebration of the individual’ and our accomplishments that we have done ourselves are lauded as amazing achievements. People create their lives often on their own and go about living ‘on their terms’.
This has served to bring about many incredible inventions, institutions, and other structures that we take for granted.
Yet, individualism, taken to the extreme, magnified to such a degree as it does in Southern California, the sense of ‘community’ all but gets obliterated, like a groove erased on a record.
Being in a city that is spread out and congested with traffic also makes it a challenge to ‘corral’ people to come to events and activities that help bring them together.
So how do you create a new groove that embraces community?
It’s a pioneering effort, and in many ways, a return to what used to be more of the norm not that long ago in my parents and grandparents generation.
I’ve noticed that there must be at least ten different ‘community newspapers’ covering the Westside, an area 50 or so square miles, all attempting to unite such a diverse group of individuals.
2 events I attempted to go to advertised in those papers were cancelled ahead of time, unbeknownst to me. A meetup.com group I went to had 30 individuals give an RSVP but only 4 showed. Individuals making decisions to cancel or no-show.
So the question begs to be asked, ‘How do you create community in a place that doesn’t seem to celebrate it?’ Is it worth the effort?
I say yes, because in community we realize that we are connected and more similar than different. We can pool our strengths and unite to bring a project or process to completion.
6 Basics of grass roots community building
- Be the holder of the vision-believe in it, see the potential and be able to share that with others. In my own experience, building the Reiki Training Program lead to the creation of the Reiki Fellowship. The Fellowship were graduated Reiki professionals whom I had trained or worked with, wanting to bring this healing work into the world. We found places and projects to get involved with. Another example was my experience in going to acting school. I met many incredibly talented people, and maintained connections and camaraderie with them throughout the years. Eventually, we took on performing a monthly show, the Seattle Cold Readers for almost two years.
- Get a domain name then begin building that website. Very true to the adage, ‘build it, they will come’. You don’t need to have a physical storefront any longer to create a meeting place for people. It can be done (initially) online, but virtual communities, in my opinion, need to become real, living and breathing communities. Meetup.com is an incredible example of this effort.
- Build your ‘tribe’. Work with your existing community, your genre and begin to reach out and communicate your vision. As mentioned before, the two organizations I had been involved with, lead to branch-out groups. Starting from scratch, without that existing population can be challenging, but not impossible. I always say, hold the space. Hold the first event. If only 1 person comes, at least 1 person did. Perhaps they will bring a friend next time. Perhaps more marketing efforts are required.
- Make sure you have another event. One is not enough. Ongoing is better. It can be once a month, twice a month or every week. Each requires a different level of commitment. But repetition creates consistency, creates community.
- Be open to experimenting with where you will meet. Maybe the first time is in your living room, maybe the next it’s at a community center or church, and if the weather is conducive, outside in a park is a wonderful place to convene, depending on your group. Is the event free? By donation? A set fee? This will determine the initial meeting places.
- Give it time. Not only in developing the group, but in advertising it (utilize all free resources, websites, flyers, etc. before going to paid announcements). 2 months prior to an event is a good time to start getting the word out. If you only have a month, it can still work. 1 week before the event is tricky, but if you have a following, you can still get people to come, but you need to have an established group for this to work.