Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book clubs and social objects

Recently I had an exchange with Rich Millington about community building.  He made a comment about the need to modernize traditional ways of community building -- book clubs, game nights, etc, and also wondered about a better, modern unifier.  Whether or not community gatherings need to moderinize  is a good discussion to have, but this got me thinking about why people gather and what ultimately comes from it. 

Personally, I think it's less important as to why people gather as it is that they gather in the first place.  In my own experiences, I find that the initial reasons for people connecting may wane but the relationships will remain.  Here are two such examples:

Pub quiz.  When I first moved to Seattle over 10 years ago, my friends and I started going to a pub that held weekly trivia competitions.  We did this religiously for years.  Team members would come and go, but a core group of us remained until the quiz master retired.  The team still gets together often to socialize, but it has been several years since we went to a trivia night together.

Team Works.  This is a program through a local nonprofit geared at team based volunteering.  The premise is that people gather in groups and volunteer in the community once a month.  After each volunteer session, people would typically gather for drinks and food at a local establishment.  I inherited a team from a long time team captain, and I brought on some of my friends to the team, who in turn brought their friends.  The team has now changed ownership multiple times, and I'm not as involved, but several team members still volunteer frequently.  We have been to each other's houses for informal gatherings, in addition to significant milestones in our lives.  Though it did not happen in my team, I know of people who got married as a result of volunteering together.

In both of these examples, the impetus for gathering -- pub quiz and Team Works -- sparked connection between people.  These individuals then chose to continue the relationship outside the initial bounds of the gathering. In many ways, I am reminded of "social objects" as described by Hugh Macleod:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. 

Objects will come and go, and that's fine.  It's the relationships and connections that make it all worthwhile.

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