Developing An Association Community That Evolves Into Action

Community Co-Design Day

Belonging precedes believing.

It’s true for our association members. It’s true for our organization’s leaders.

The ways we include or exclude others influences their thoughts and actions. It’s more than what we say or write. It’s how we invite others to join and belong, how we greet them, how we appreciate them, how we accept them.

Belonging is vital because belonging precedes believing which precedes people behaving together.

Meaningful Belonging Leads To Shared Beliefs And Collaborative Behaviors

How ironic that belonging shapes so much.

We all need to feel accepted, believed in and as if we belong. It’s a basic need say sociologists like Matthew Lieberman and Josh Packard, psychologists Abraham Maslow, and educators like Aaron Hogan.

Collaborating together starts with connecting and belonging together.

If people can’t see themselves as a part of a larger community, they will never actually believe anything together. And their belonging and beliefs will never get translated into action.

Belonging precedes believing which also precedes behaving which also precedes becoming.

We often get it backwards! We think that if we get a whole group of people together who believe the same things, they will create a community. We feel that if we can amass a crowd that agrees on a set of core principles, they will evolve into community of like-minded individuals and take action.

Connections And Community Before Collaboration

Community comes first. Individuals develop a sense of belonging to a group that is meaningful to them. Connections to others is fundamental to a group developing a shared vision and shared goals.

People are more likely to join you and others on a learning journey of professional development than agree to a high pressured sales call to become a year-long member of your organization. We are more inclined to sit with each other and share stories of our work than participate in political advocacy on behalf of the profession.

We need to belong together before we believe together and before we behave together and before we can become something bigger together.

It’s only after individuals authentically connect with each other, feel as if they belong to something bigger than themselves, that they can communicate and trust. Then they can collaborate and co-create frankly and effectively. Then they can genuinely act together.

Connecting and community before collaboration and co-creation and action.

Community Development Does Not Stop After People Connect

As association leaders, we often think that once a community is developed, we can pull back resources, time and focus on cultivating community. We think it will continue to grow organically.

Does a garden continue to grow and bear fruit year after year without proper resources, attention and care?

As an association, we have to spend as much time or even more time nurturing the development of that community. We have to keep our focus on community building initiatives that give individuals the feeling of belonging to something bigger and better then themselves, even though they may be distances apart. And we have to continually find ways to onboard new community members without having them feel excluded from those that have been there a while.

We must cultivate community experiences where people can share, dialogue and dream together as they collaboratively act together.

How does your association consistently cultivate community? What are some ways associations can foster and nurture community building activities at meetings and online?

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