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Four Kinds of Communities


So if you’ve been keeping up, you know that I’ve become quite fascinated with communities of late. What makes them tick, why do we join them, why do we leave them, what qualities define an outstanding one – all of those questions are part of my quest to learn more.

Today I want to share with you some of my early insights about the kinds of communities that are out there. I’ve realized that different kinds of communities have different life-spans AND different life expectancies. As long as we know this when we join a community, we’re in good shape. Problems occur when we think we are in one kind of community and suddenly discover that we are in another kind entirely.

So without further adieu, here is my first attempt to describe communities in this way. (This is BETA, not carved in stone, okay?!)

Four Kinds of Communities

The “Pop Up” Community

The Pop Up community is one that springs to life seemingly overnight and out of nowhere.

Lifespan: The Pop Up Community has a very short, but intense life span.

Examples: I’m thinking of communities like those that form at an event like SXSW or Blogworld. Or those that spring up online around a specific cause or event.  A short, shared experience is the glue that holds the Pop Up Community together.

The Pop Up Community is like a match. It burst to life in a bright, hot flame. Connections and relationships happen almost instantly and emails, dms, messages and texts fly as fast as they can be typed. Sometimes the Pop Up Community evolves into another kind of community and sometimes it dies a natural death at the conclusion of the event from which it sprang.

The Temporary Community

A close relative of the Pop Up Community, the temporary community is one that is intentionally designed to temporary from the very beginning.

Lifespan: Can vary anywhere from a few days to several months – maybe even a year. Everyone knows that it’s not designed to be permanent. It has a predictable beginning and a predictable end.

The idea is that a group or community comes together, works along aside each other for a set amount of time and when the project or “thing” they are working on concludes, the community disbands.

Examples: I’m thinking of communities like the one that forms around my month-long blog series. I know and the community members know that the community that forms will last exactly one month. That’s not to say that some people will bond and stay around Escaping Mediocrity longer – some will. But that is a bonus, not an expectation.

Another example of a temporary community is a group or committee who designs, plans and executes a specific something like an event. (The group that made TEDxRedMountain happen springs to mind.)

Another example is a formal mastermind or community coaching program. Everyone knows when it starts. Everyone knows who is in it. Everyone knows when it will officially end.

The Transient Community

The Transient Community is a little tougher to describe because it’s one where members of the community come and go. In fact, I’m debating whether it has a place in this particular list of community descriptions based on life span.

But a Transient Community is distinctly different from the other three, so for now, it’s here.

Lifespan: Varies Wildly

Examples: Sometimes the community structure is fixed, like membership organizations, but the actual people IN the community changes.  Sometimes the community structure is as fluid as the people who are in it – such as informal masterminds or support networks.

The most important thing I can say about a Transient Community is that you’ve got to know when you are in one. If you expect a transient community to anything other than what it is, you’ll be disappointed.

The Anchor Community

Which brings be to the idea of the Anchor Community. These are the communities most of us long for.

Lifespan: The Anchor Community has structure, a long life span (perhaps even indefinite) and we know who the members are. Certainly new people may join from time to time and of course there will be some people who leave. However, there is a certain amount of solid predictability and familiarity built into the community’s fabric.

Examples: I’m thinking of communities like churches, synagogues and other house of faith. I’m thinking of the community of friends you’ve known since college who know all about you and love you anyway. I’m thinking about the group of colleagues who formally or informally meet and communicate to support and challenge each other – and have for years.

More Thoughts

As you can tell from the above descriptions, one kind of community can evolve or devolve into another kind of community. A community could be a hybrid of several different kinds of communities.

As you can probably also tell, I’m still fleshing out the descriptions of these four communities – this idea is still very much in BETA. To that end, I would LOVE your thoughts and feedback on this whole idea.

Have I left out a kind of community that can be defined by lifespan? Can you think of more examples of communities that fit into the above for descriptions? Do I need to add more/different descriptors?

As always, I anxiously await your wisdom. 🙂

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