The Future of Community

My rarified experience working in and fostering community on the ground and on the Internet provides me with exceptional insight into the advantages that such a social stance can offer to organizations, whether they be for or nonprofit in nature. Management models have been changing and evolving constantly through human history and the Net has fed accelerating change.

Today we are seeing the exposure of weaknesses in the old hierarchical management model and the emergence of more decentralized businesses that lever the collective intelligence of the Social Web. I’ve understood and promoted the strengths of such approaches since I managed The WELL – among the earliest and longest lasting communities to make use of electronic networking – in the pre-Internet era.

You may have a business that could prosper through applying social media combined with distributed intelligence. I may be the expert who can guide you to operations that empower your customers to help one another or to find services in a less centralized process. The process of getting from where you are today to a more resilient business model is one of my areas of expertise. I can work with you to envision such a conversion.

This falls under the great category of social media strategy, but I also offer tactical design and coaching to help you manage the design of your social media interface along with appropriate policy and practices for your particular business. Feel free to connect with me via email or messaging to my Facebook account and let’s talk. No charge. I’d like to hear from you.



And now a short essay about the long-range efficacy of community as a survival skill. Part of me lives in the future.

Community Р as defined by interdependence, shared needs, social history and trusted institutions and  relationships Рhas changed radically since the birth of the social web but humanity is now faced with multiple and extreme challenges for which it must adapt and become resilient.

As a founding veteran of two adventurous, pioneering and influential long-range experiences in community formation and operation (The Farm and The WELL), I study and report on the directions that other “scout” communities have taken and are now taking. From what I learn, I provide guidance and ideas for businesses, organizations and governmental bodies to include in their planning and preparation for what promises to be a critical period in human evolution, activity and adaptation.

Community is as old or even older than homo sapiens. Our bodies, our brains and our souls have developed through collaboration and caring, and the meaning of “community” has evolved over tens of thousands of years from families to tribes to villages, neighborhoods and – over the past 30 years – to virtual associations. Community jargon today is widely used in the context of marketing. Note how many companies include a tab on their websites for “community,” though most of the prospective or actual customers have no ongoing relationships in the physical world.

People may – through online facilities like Facebook and YouTube – interact with many people sharing common interests. The purposes for joining communities of interest (once called SIGs – Special Interest Groups) are, among others, to share ideas, offer or find recommendations, argue, plan and form new relationships No doubt, the term “community” is used far more frequently today than it ever was before the Internet. The Internet’s definition of online community as a “Third Place” for individuals, beyond the

home and the workplace , is not limited to URLs and social media platforms. Those relationships established and strengthened online often extend into the physical world, sometimes for business and education, but increasingly for actual neighborhood communications. In some ways the social interaction online is rejuvenating the neighborhood as it once was before technologies such as television replaced the back yard fence as the locus of community interaction.

For the first 2 decades of virtual community and electronic games it seemed that our screen-focused lives were eroding the local familiarity of the physical neighborhood, but with the recognition and emphasis on social media, people have come to grasp the virtual social sphere as an organizing and collaboration medium for making change in the world.

How Then Shall We Live is going to be an exploration of how the concept and practice of community may adapt and change in the short-to-long range future as humanity comes to grips with threatening factors and forces such as climate change, vast demographic shifts and economic instability. Indeed, we may very well be facing collapse on multiple fronts. HTSWL will search for and share answers to questions such as these:

  • How will neighborhoods re-invent themselves for providing mutual support and interdependence?
  • What will neighborhoods, towns, counties and regional governance bodies deal with poverty, aging populations, infrastructure entropy, climate impacts and new medical realities?
  • How will the Internet be used as an integral part of governing communications and collaboration on a real time global scale?
  • What forces will drive local government to turn its structure inside out and to make radical changes that today amount to kicking problems down the road for future consideration?
  • Who will come to lead these changes in the definition and practice of community as a survival practice?