Community is a journey, not a destination

Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash

I recently spoke with a UN agency who is building a global community of practitioners. In our conversations I was reminded of a particular image of “community” that I come across often in my client work:

  • Community = an annual gathering
  • Community = a digital social network
  • And often the intersection of the two: Community = an annual gathering and a social network

This perspective then drives resource allocation conversations: if we want to improve the community, we should create a better gathering or increase the features of our social network.

I find this perspective limiting. I think nurturing a community is not about one or two singular key pillars, but really about a member journey (that will include these pillars). That journey starts somewhere, has different phases and seasons (often marked by recurring experiences and rituals) and then at some point ends.

The analogy that comes to mind is the US college experience. Yes at the center of a university experience is taking classes. But that’s only the most functional element of it. Attending college ideally is a well-designed experience that starts with a selection process, an onboarding and welcoming process, a first initiation and then several steps as one moves from being a Freshman to being a Sophomore etc until one finally wears a cape and a hat and graduates. In the end, it’s that whole journey that makes up my time of being a student, not just the classes.

How does that resonate with your own experience?

Originally published at on April 16, 2019.

Fabian Pfortmüller

Written by

Grüezi, Swiss community builder in NYC, author of @CommunityCanvas, co-founder Together Institute,

Together Institute

Hi there, we are Together Institute, we exist to help people and organizations build more meaningful communities. Here is where we share what we learn and think about.

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