No commitment, no community

Fabian Pfortmüller
Oct 3, 2018 · 2 min read
Photo by Photos by Lanty on Unsplash

As I’m doing research for the next version of the Community Canvas, I think a lot about key ingredients that haven’t been captured in the Canvas so far and that are necessary to turn a community into a meaningful community. In that context I think about “softer” ingredients such as consistency, rhythm, simplicity, generosity, patience. And recently the crucial role of “commitment” keeps coming up in conversations.

Here are some quick thoughts about commitment and community:

  • What is commitment? Commitment is a pledge, a dedication, maybe even an obligation. In the context of community it is pledge by a member — implicit or explicit — to show up and step up for a group.
  • Commitments in a community matter, because they show the members dedication to care about something more than their personal self-interest. It shows a willingness to care not just about the simple, fun and good parts of the group, but all of it. Without a commitment, the group would be a collection of individuals pursuing their own self interests (which happen to align with what the group is giving them, sometimes). Commitment is like the glue that keeps the community together and allows it to grow and strengthen beyond short-term fun.
  • Commitment can create a positive upward cycle: if I know you have committed to this group, I’m more likely to commit and this will influence others to commit as well, thereby creating a positive wave of commitment.
  • Commitments need to be explicitly stated. It’s hard to guess for a member what the expected commitment is from her or him.
  • Commitments ideally are a pro-active choice that members take, not something that is assumed over time.
  • Ideally the community offers different levels of commitment. Not everyone wants to show up in the same way. Not everyone has the same bandwidth, interest and energy to show up.
  • Different levels of commitment need to come with different levels of rewards and rights. The more you commit, the more you should get in return. There needs to be a balance between give and get.
  • People’s lives keep changing. Ideally there is flexibility to go between different levels of engagements.
  • There is an onboarding period to the commitment. Nobody wants commitment out of nowhere, right from the start. At the beginning, I need to sniff out if this group feels trustworthy and the right fit. But then at some point I need to commit.
  • Ideally the levels of commitment are connected to the groups overall goals. What do we hope to achieve together? That needs to be translated into a collective commitment.

Originally published at on October 3, 2018.

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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