10 Essential Needs of a Thriving Community

Where We Could Be Who We Are

Neighborhood Kids

When I was kid I used to hide out in my room or in the basement to play music and dance, or paint all afternoon. If my friend, Craig, was around we’d do the same, find a place where we could be who we are without the world telling us what to do.

We were just two, but were a community of like-minded thinkers. When the other kids came over, we were more.

How to Make Room for a Community

I don’t think anyone can build a community. Community is an idea, a feeling, an agreement. It’s sweet and tenuous and only lasts as lightly and long as it is respected. It’s an investment, that it takes time and patience. When I came here I knew a little bit about how to do it, but learned most of what I know from the folks who come to visit.

10 Things about Making Room for a Community

  1. A community needs a high-trust environment. A high-trust environment means being there when folks need a friend or a teacher. It means having a vision and set of principles that they can count on being the same tomorrow.

  2. A community has plenty of room for folks to be who we are. When we’re with friends we don’t have to self-conscious or guarded. In a community, I like the way you see me. No one puts people in boxes or steps on their feelings.

  3. To grow a community, be a guide alongside — not the sage on the stage. Set aside the instruction manual writing. Stop teaching your friends and start learning iwth with them.

  4. Have conversations that are about them. Ask how they’re doing, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and then listen. When you’re done. Listen again.

  5. Reach out to everyone, every chance that you get. When someone says “hello,” answer “how can I help?”

  6. Look for reasons to start conversations. Invite people in. When someone visits make that person a friend.

  7. When you hear a story about another person, put your own name in the story before you choose to believe it.

  8. Know that folks make mistakes and that some do so on purpose. Know which mistakes are the ones that won’t work in your community and make sure that you never allow them. Dislike the act, not the person.

  9. Talk about things that are fun, engaging, and refreshing to talk about. Give people a chance to play once in a while.

  10. Keep your head and heart together and always about the people who visit.

Those are the basics of making room for a community. It’s a lot like opening your mind and inviting people to be who they are.

–ME “Liz” Strauss


  1. says

    SO interesting to me since I am a certified planner and registered landscape architect (in my previous life?) and as I was reading this at times I was thinking is she talking about the blogosphere or our physical communities. I suppose when we’re all craving a sense of comunity it doesn’t matter which it is – its just about people. Hope we connect soon. I e-mailed you this morning.

  2. says

    Hi Sue!
    We are so like our physical communitieis. The metaphors help us understand how the relationships inside the internet work for us. It’s usual for us to use them. I got your email. :)

  3. says

    Nice list. Those are good points, especially the one regarding trust. I believe trust is where a community evovles and would mean the end of it if there isn’t any.

  4. says

    Hi Pamela,
    Thank you. I agree. It all starts and ends with a high-trust environment — a place where people can play and be who they are without thinking about everything that they do. The freedom to be who we are is something so critical to our optimal performance and our happiness. It is the key to joy. End of story. Yeah, like I said. I agree.

    You’re not a stranger anymore. :)

  5. says

    Great points. I believe that this is the greatest idea human being discovered. Since we are social being, community is probably meant for us inorder to be productive.

  6. says

    Hi Dave!
    Welcome, sorry that you had to wait. I was off writing my post for the Blog Herald tomorrow. . . .

    I agree the being together where we don’t have to think about who we are is special indeed, but also rare. I found it at one company and then we were sold, and it was gone like a wind blew it away.

    To be among friend without self-consciuosness and in a state of flow is truly a productive thing. It’s also something to be quite jazzed about. It’s the essence of playing. :)

    You’re not a stranger anymore. :)

  7. says

    Hi David!
    Welcome. Yes! Sounds like you’ve been in a real community. Community grows one person at a time puts down roots, makes traditions, and develops friendships that are lasting. :)

  8. says

    Hi Ankesh!
    That point you choose — be a guide on the side — was a hard one for me to catch hold of. Though it came naturally to me in my classroom, it was harder in text. Too much publishing had gotten in my habits.

    I had to make a conscious effort to come down from teaching to talking. :)

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