Together Institute
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The power of groups that are both local and global

Source: Global chapters of American Society for Architectural Engineering and Project Managers

I’m tired of engaging in global, virtual-first communities. I crave real, in-person human interaction. And yet, I also wish that my local communities would be part of a bigger whole. There is something powerful about groups that have both the local and global dimension.

I first learned that in the early days of Sandbox. We started the community in 2007 by hosting young change makers over dinner in Zurich. In the early days, I would often worry about competition and the sustainability of people’s engagement. There were other local groups that brought change makers together, some of them addressing a very similar group of people. Why were people willing and interested to stay engaged? I realized that a main draw was, that Sandbox aspired to be both a local and global community at the same time (which was mostly aspirational in the early days, other chapters didn’t exist yet, but they eventually did).

I find that these two dimensions — local and non-local (regional / cross-regional / global) — complement each other. Both of them provide different reasons why people engage and show up.

Being part of a local community is energizing.

This is where we get to meet in person. These relationships can actually integrate into my everyday life and they have the potential to become friendships. We can meet over dinner. We can meet regularly. We can bring our partners and families and they can meet, too. We can be spontaneous. We can bridge the professional and personal divide that sometimes exists when we meet people in a professional context.

Being part of a global community is also energizing, but for other reasons.

This is where we meet a much bigger variety of people. This is where we often learn the most. It’s in global communities that the human search engine effect works the best: the matchmaking between people looking for answers/resources/ideas and people offering solutions is the most efficient. Digital technology makes the logistics of meeting up simple and cheap. And to me, engaging on the global level also feels aspirational: I sense we dream bigger when we are engaging in a global conversation with people from allover the world.

What do you think about the local-global connection?

I’d love to hear how this resonates with your experience, thanks so much for sharing a comment.

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Fabian Pfortmüller

Fabian Pfortmüller

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

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