The Extraordinary Benefits of Community
“It takes a village to raise a child.” - African proverb
I don’t have a child, but I do own a business (Supporti). My business is my baby. And I couldn’t raise this baby business all on my own. I’ve sought out the guidance of others who have done it before, and I’ve received help from amazing peers, partners, mentors and interns. Most of all, the Supporti customer community has helped the business grow and improve.
To do incredible things, you need incredible people by your side.
They’ll support you and hold you accountable.
So, even though a lot of us are raising families, companies, or our own careers seemingly alone, we can and should tap into communities to support us along the way.
When you need a recommendation for a good doctor, restaurant, or a gift idea, what do you do? You likely either search online and read through online community reviews, or you ask someone whom you know and trust. Information and resources flow through networks.
As we’ve covered before, behaviors and wellness spread through social ties. The people we interact with regularly can deeply affect our beliefs, behaviors, and even our mood. Community connects us with one another and gives us a sense of purpose and belonging.
What’s more, communities provide social support, which is correlated with resilience and the ability to combat stress.
So, how can you become more engaged in your communities?
Tapping into your communities
You’re probably part of several different communities right now involving coworkers, gym or running buddies, book clubs, fantasy leagues, or religious groups. But are you using these communities to their full potential?
You manifest connections by participating in community events, referrals, and seeking information within a community. Attending an event or checking a forum once in a blue moon isn’t going to generate the benefits of trust and support that a community can offer. You do need to show up in some capacity to foster relationships.
You don’t even have to be a social butterfly! You can caterpillar your way into reaping the benefits of a community through a few deep connections, which can even be more rewarding than numerous superficial ones.
For virtual communities, you can be a “lurker” —someone who reads but doesn’t post questions or answers. Even by simply lurking, you get the benefit of knowing the kind of support your community can provide, and that it’s there when you need it. Eventually, though, you may want to answer a question or even ask one of your own to connect more deeply with your community.
In addition to participating in community forums and events, you can become an integral part of the inner workings of a community by helping out in a few key ways. Offering to help with planning or setting up events and making connections to resources will certainly be appreciated. You can also do the community a huge favor by inviting new people into the community or showing new members the ropes with open arms.
Remember: your community becomes what you put into it.
Finding a community
Right now, it can be hard to find a new community.
Community used to be defined by where you live. Your neighbors were your community. And there still are a lot of local groups you can find, right at home. Looking online for local groups? Check out “hyper-local” resources like NextDoor or Buy Nothing.
In today’s dynamic world, however, community is far more than your physical location. Instead, communities are often formed around shared beliefs and interests, and can reach across the state, country, or globe.
Online communities have a lot of benefits; especially because they allow for greater accessibility. You used to be limited to certain courses, fitness instructors, programs, etc. based on where you lived. But now, people from all over the world can join in a digital capacity where they were unable to do so previously. One of my favorite examples is this virtual choir, where thousands of people from all over the globe submit a video of themselves singing the same song, and the voices are compiled together into a truly beautiful soundtrack.
You can find communities on Reddit, Facebook, Meetup, or individual sites by simply using a search engine and typing in a description of your group such as, “running moms in San Francisco” or “roller skating in NYC.” Some groups may ask you to complete a short questionnaire or to apply, but many others will welcome anyone so long as they show respect and kindness towards others.
If you’re looking to join new communities but are nervous to do so because you have introvert tendencies, look no further. I shared my best tips based on attending a bunch of networking events in a brand new city where I knew almost no one.
Creating a community
If you’re loving this idea of community, maybe you’re wondering how you can create your own community around a particular idea or interest.
If you know just a few people who can help kickstart your community, that’s really all you need, and you can continue inviting others and spreading the word from there. The key for getting that growth is creating a stellar experience.
What separates a good community from a great one?
Organized, committed leadership. You need someone or a group of people who are planning the when, where, and how of the community events. The community leaders can be more hands-off, simply answering questions for newer members, or they can be essential in creating and enforcing the vision of the community.
Clear expectations. Who is the community for, and why does it exist? Some communities are more structured than others. Regardless, having a north star can help align the mission and any decisions that follow. Even in the most casual of communities, it helps everyone if it is made clear what members are expected to do and what behaviors are and are not allowed. That way, community members can be confident about the experience they’re entering into, and feel a sense of security by knowing that the other members have agreed to the same expectations.
Engaged members. Being a part of something only is valuable if there’s something going on! You want your members to connect with each other. The more frequent and widespread the engagement, the stronger the community ties will be. So, the community should host events that give members a reason to engage. If the community is virtual, having a platform where people can ask questions to each other, or respond to prompts is a wonderful way to facilitate engagement.
As you start, the early members in your community can provide feedback to help you hone in on the issues your community cares about. Then you’ll be able to serve them— and each other—better.
How communities can help you grow
Communities based on hobbies are fantastic because they foster connections based on mutual interests. However, by surrounding yourself with like-minded people, you’re likely to be exposed to the same ideas and perspectives all the time.
In the similar way to how eating the same lunch everyday is comfortable, it's also bland. Life is much richer when you shake things up a bit and order the daily special!
You’ve probably heard of groupthink: the conformity of thought that can occur in groups. When surrounded by people who have a shared belief, it’s harder to express an individual dissenting view. Add to this the human nature for confirmation bias: our tendency to seek out information that supports our preexisting views, and we risk losing our individual perspective.
By exclusively socializing with people who have the exact same views and backgrounds as us, we reduce our own ability to empathize and understand those who are different from us.
How might you use a community to expand your perspectives instead of limiting them?
Try joining a variety of communities! The wonderful thing about living in the digital age is that other groups are just a tap of a finger away. When you participate in various communities, you’re bound to encounter people who are different from you.
I have personal experience with this, best described in a short story.
As soon as I arrived, I knew this wouldn’t be like prior meetups. I shared an elevator with a person who avoided eye contact and was not interested in small talk. I was surprised to find out we were heading to the same networking event. At the functions I’m used to, people are usually gathered around the free pizza and drinks, socializing before the main speaking event, but when I walked in, nearly everyone was sitting down in the chairs facing the presentation area, playing on their laptops or phones, not talking to each other.
When the presentation began, the audience feverishly took notes on a topic that might as well have been a foreign language to me. Meanwhile, I found a seat in the back row, sheepishly tucked my business cards back in my bag, and tried not to fall asleep. I snuck out halfway through without a single new contact.
While I did not continue to participate as an active member in this community, I would not call this a fruitless endeavor. I did my part by showing up and getting exposed to another group of people who were very different from me. And that was a valuable learning experience that I still benefit from today.
For example, I learned:
Some people don’t do small talk. Or any talk, for that matter.
Software developers enjoy their craft so much that they’ll make free time after work to attend a presentation about ways to get even better at it, even at the risk of an awkward social encounter.
Now that I know this, I am better able to appreciate the perspective of developers and what drives them. In turn, this knowledge has helped me find better approaches for hiring, working with, and supporting such people.
So, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while and find a new community. Even if it’s not a perfect match, try to take away at least one insight and appreciate the fresh perspective. Some ideas:
If you are a gym rat and are a part of run clubs, try joining an artsy community
If you’re a gamer, check out a community service group
If you’re into gardening, volunteer at a school or hospital
If you’re in a book club, participate in a local farmers market
If you’re involved in a faith-based community, check out an outdoors group
You get the idea.
By participating in various communities, you expand your bubble. You form connections with all kinds of people. And these various interests and connections in turn make you a more interesting person!
A new kind of community
When a community can bring together dissimilar people in spite of their differences, that’s pretty cool.
That’s one of my favorite things about Supporti. We’re growing a community of supportive people and are pairing them up as accountabilibuddies.
A lot of people assume that their accountability partner should be just like them: same age, same location, and heck, they should look the same too, right? But at Supporti, we challenge this assumption.
We think an amazing accountability partner should be more about how well they support others rather than how similar they are to you. A great accountability partner cares about your success. They believe in making each other better, together.
And this shared view is what brings people to our app and allows us to provide supportive, engaging matches, time and again.
At Supporti, we’re building a community of people who are committed to mutual moral support. We believe in (digitally) showing up for one another, and that together, we can continually improve ourselves and each other through daily encouragement and accountability.
The stronger our community, the better we are able to deliver on our promise of finding you supportive, engaged partners through our mobile app!
In light of our efforts to grow and strengthen our community, we’re excited to announce the launch of our brand new referral program!
If you’re a current member of Supporti’s community, click here to generate your share link. Then, if you know friends or family members who could benefit from social accountability, share your code with them and you’ll get a $5 Amazon gift card for each person who subscribes!
If you're not yet a part of the Supporti community but want to be, start your free two-week trial today!