When building community, focus on the content, not the process

You’ve been to those evening neighborhood meetings… lots of talk about resistance to change, addressing complaints, reaching out to government, fundraising, what this committee and that committee are doing… it feels more like a day job, it’s not fun, there’s contention in the air, and it often doesn’t result in making a progressive impact in your neighborhood.

Perhaps the group should focus on content, like what kinds of buildings, shops, restaurants and streets you’d like to see, backed up by the investors willing to capitalize it, and leave the process to ‘committees’ during the work day. It’s not as simple as that, but it is indeed time for a fresh and evolved model that reflects a demand-driven shift in our economy and culture.

At a recent beta community meeting (where future tenants/patrons crowdsource a new business/building/neighborhood with the investing sponsor) for a new third place, the discussion slowly went from what kind of events, experiences and educational events to have to whether or not to limit the size of the beta community, how to form committees and structure tasks normally handled by the business owner. Thankfully, the beta community self-recognized its digression and vowed to focus 100% on content at the next meeting, trusting the structure to the business owner and beta community catalyzer.

The energy and vitality of the group shifts dramatically when attention is on either content (animated) or process (stagnant), and being creative is all about having that inner vitality.

  • That is a great way to look at it Neil.

    On an unrelated note, I think a similar effect is the cause of many of the problems in our country. The free market works great, but only when the players don’t get to set the rules of the game.

  • Totally agreed. I hope we can also put this idea into practice at Beta Community meetings. At a previous job where we made collective decisions, we had a “process team” for people who were willing to cover process and bring quick proposals to the rest of the group.