On Thursday I spoke about Social Innovation Sydney at SydStart along with Selena Griffith, Michelle Williams, and Kim Chen. Apart from the Social Innovation Sydney team there was an illustrious line-up for SydStart – you can see the list here.
My brief talk was focused on the approach taken to build community around social innovation, and I will expand on it a little here. As I said:
“Our approach is simple. Community is about real people making real connections in real life. We use technology to enable those connections.”
I firmly believe that the power of online connections and networks is given a new depth when we meet in real life. Social networks are wonderful, and I find them to be amazingly useful. But it is when we finally meet the real human being and look into their eyes that the real magic happens. It is when the heart-to-heart connection between genuine people takes places that we see the alchemy.
Looking to the meaning of the word community gives an insight into what I’m talking about:
late 14c., from O.Fr. comunité “community, commonness, everybody” (Mod.Fr. communauté), from L. communitatem (nom. communitas) “community, fellowship,” from communis “common, public, general, shared by all or many,” (see common). Latin communitatem “was merely a noun of quality … meaning ‘fellowship, community of relations or feelings,’ but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of ‘a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen’ ” [OED]. An O.E. word for “community” was gemænscipe “community, fellowship, union, common ownership,” probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Community service as a criminal sentence is recorded from 1972, Amer.Eng. Community college is recorded from 1959.
Source: Online Etymology Dictionary
Thus community is about building “fellowship” and is something that is “shared by all or many”. To achieve it we must bring people together. And one way to bring people together is to have them all focus on an object or objective, in much the same way as we have with Social Innovation Sydney.
Our use of social media and social networking is merely part of the mechanic. But these tools are not the focus, instead they are a mechanism for reinforcing the community that is formed through action, and by conversation and exchange of ideas.