I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of community and how this applies to the digital world. It is something that a lot of people talk about, but I fear it is from learning the buzz words instead of from real understanding.
The concept of a community is not new. In fact it is very old. Humans have always had the need to be part of a group. In modern life we have home owners associations, hobby groups, sports teams, church groups, civic organizations, fraternities/sororities and more. In high school it was very apparent what group you did or did not belong to.
What draws those people together is a common set of societal norms and over time a culture for the community develops. That culture can be reflected in their physical appearance, how they dress, their mannerisms, how they treat each other and the fact that each of them has something to gain from being a part of the group.
This is what a community is all about.
Over this past summer, I went to visit one of my good friends from Second Life. He lives in the Netherlands and invited me to attend one of the Netherlands famous cultural arts festivals called Oerol. It is held every year on the island of Terschelling, which is located off the north west coast of the Netherlands.
It is a wild and beautiful island. People from all over Europe come there to camp out, attend the art and cultural events and celebrate living. People of all ages and backgrounds come together as one community of equals. Everyone is welcome. The Dutch have an interesting culture that very much epitomized what community means to me.
The Dutch have an amazing tolerance level for all kinds of people from all walks of life and from all age groups. At Oerol everyone is welcome. By participating in Oreol I learned what it means to be part of a vibrant active community where everyone participates.
It is unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I don’t think we have the same concepts of community or inclusiveness here in the United States.
For me, this experience is what is mirrored online. It is less about being judged from your appearance, your age, or where you are from. It is much more about being respected for your individual uniqueness, and building relationships with others based on common ground.
This ideal of a community is what I educate people on. It is what I strive for them to understand when I speak about making the government more human; by developing our human voices. Developing government’s human voice is about establishing a personality that someone can interact and talk with, not to; a more human like presence to what has always been a nameless, faceless beast. It’s about finding a way to build real meaningful relationships with others built on common interests and trust. It is also about having everyone in a society participating.
In a world where our issues and problems are becoming more complex and intertwined, we cannot hope to solve these things without the help of the community.
Government is no different. We now have the tools to help us be more inclusive (participatory) and trustworthy (transparency). Yet, we need to work harder at building collaborative relationships across agency lines, outside of government to the education community, the non profit community, non-government organizations, private sector and with other governments in ways we have never done before.
By doing these things we will be able to start changing the culture of government and helping to provide better services to our citizens in the United States and to the larger global community.
I have taken some inspiration from my experiences at Oerol and by what my Dutch friends have taught me about community. Through my work on the Government 2.0 Camp LA, I have tried to remember those lessons about community and apply them here.
I have searched for people from a variety of different places, backgrounds and industries to help teach us about community, social media and most of all about how to build these new kinds of collaborative relationships.
I hope you find this is not your average Camp or Conference. This is not a “tech event” or a “government event”. This is an event for all kinds of people from various backgrounds and industries who are united in their belief that they can solve complex problems and know collectively they have a chance at success.
This is about bringing people together to solve problems that impact us all. I hope you will come participate and lend your voice and experience to this event.
We need you.
The Government 2.0 Camp LA is scheduled to take place from February 5-7, 2010. For more information and to register to participate go to http://Gov20LA.org or follow us @Gov20LA_ or #Gov20LA
One of my favorite books on community is “The Culting of Brands” by Douglas Atkins, who now runs theglueproject.com and also used to work at Meetup. He actually talks a lot of similarities of communities and what has been successful.
I’m with you. I think the Internet generally models a lot of offline life and even online…offline matters. Was talking to Jake of Sunlight today and he was saying that part of the reason he really got on GovLoop was cause he met me (he’d heard about it, sounded cool, but never engaged). I think that is true with online generally – online reinforces offline and vice versa.
I think that’s the beauty of Gov 2.0 LA is that hopefully we will do both…
Hey Lovisa – this is precisely why I think government 2.0 is less about technology and more about psychology. It really is about cultural change…it’s about helping people in government to no longer see themselves as lone rangers, needing to work on their own to provide value to citizens. AND it’s about helping citizens to see that they are now more empowered than ever to communicate with career public servants and elected officials.
It’s recognizing that we all live in communities together when we’re not at work – government employees live in neighborhoods side-by-side with people employed in other sectors, right? If we are living and connecting in those communities, why would we not seek to maintain that connection when we perform our work-related responsibilities, especially when the work of government impacts all of us?
In other words, technologies like social media enable us to stay connected to one another – private citizens and public servants – even when we go to work…but we have to re-think and re-articulate the role that all of use play in leveraging that power to transform “government”…which is ultimately a huge cultural shift – not just in government, but in our nation as a whole.
Eager to see the outcomes from Gov 2.0 LA in terms of advancing these ideas!
Thanks for this post, Lovisa. It is always encouraging to hear such hope and enthusiasm around government. I look forward to continuing and broadening this conversation at Gov 2.0 Camp LA!