Linked 'N Chicago: A social business community

Social communities are dependent upon the accompanying principles:

Creating business relationships locally is a social experience. Individuals arrange their learning around the social exercises. Case in point, schools are effective learning situations for learners whose social exercises concur with that school.

Knowledge is the life of communities when they share beliefs and values and ways of doing things. Real knowledge is incorporated in the doing, social relations, and expertise of these communities.

Learning and group participation are indivisible. On the grounds that learning is interlaced with community participation, it is the thing that gives us a chance to have a place with and modify our status in the community. As we learn, our identity–and our relationship to the community changes.

Learning is as one from practice. It is not conceivable to know without doing. By doing, we learn.

Empowerment–the capability to donate to a community–creates the potential for learning. The way we take part in genuine activity that has results for both us and our neighbors make the most compelling learning situations.

The objective of Linked ‘N Chicago as a social business community:

The objective of our community is to carry out the communities own particular inside bearing, character, and vigor. The accompanying are the seven standards:

1. Begin with the understanding that all things evolve

2. Open an exchange between inside and outside viewpoints.

3. Welcome distinctive levels of support.

4. Advance both open and private community spaces.

5. Focus on value.

6. Combine familiarity with excitement.

7. Create a rhythm for the community.

Start with the understanding that all things evolve

Communities are influenced by a multitude of environmental factors such as economics and education, social trends and philosophical values and learning. In the beginning a mission is created and announced, inviting others to join who agree with the mission. As the population increases, the needs of the community change. These changing needs are captured, measured against the mission and begin taking shape as community elements, which are tried, tested and transformed along the way. Next some sort of leadership and organization must occur in order to manage the evolution. The leadership must be comprised of individuals who bring the right balance of perspective and experience and are capable of collaborating while keeping the mission close to their heart. Leaders are givers –are able to adjust and “allow for the possibility” – in order to accept the fluidity of the ever changing needs of the community as a whole. It is at this point when the mission, the goals and the organization is formed that community elements are introduced one at a time, such as a website, regular meetings, projects and community outings. Evolution is common to all communities, and the primary role of design is to catalyze that evolution.

Open an exchange between inside and outside viewpoints

Community design requires an insider's viewpoint to expose what the community is about. When designing teams, we know a team's output requirements in advance and can design to achieve that output. But effective community design is built on the collective experience of community members. Only an insider can appreciate the issues at the heart of the community, the knowledge that is important to share, the challenges their field faces, and the potential in emerging ideas and techniques. Only an insider can know who the real players are and their relationships. This requires more than community "input." It requires a deep understanding of community issues.

Good community design requires an understanding of the community's potential to develop and shepherd knowledge, but it often takes an outside perspective to help members see the possibilities.

Welcome diverse levels of interest

Communities need a "coordinator" who organizes events and connects the community. But others in the community also take on leadership roles. We commonly see three main levels of community participation. The first is a small core group of people who actively participate in discussions, even debates, in the public community forum. They often take on community projects; identify topics for the community to address, and move the community along its learning agenda. This group is the heart of the community. As the community matures, this core group takes on much of the community's leadership, its members becoming auxiliaries to the community coordinator. But this group is usually rather small.  We call these participants “The Connectors”.  At the next level outside this core is the active group. These members attend meetings regularly and participate occasionally in the community forums, but without the regularity or intensity of the core group and build benches for those on the sidelines. These core members keep the peripheral members connected. To draw members into more active participation, successful communities build a fire in the center of the community that will draw people to its heat

Advance both open and private community spaces

A community manager needs to "work" the private space between meetings, dropping in on community members to discuss their current problems and linking them with helpful resources, inside or outside the community. These informal, "back channel" discussions actually help orchestrate the public space and are key to successful meetings. They ensure that the spontaneous topics raised at the meetings are valuable to the whole and that the people attending will have something useful to add. The one-on-one networking creates a conduit for sharing information with a more limited number of people, using the managers’ discretion as a gate. Every phone call, e-mail exchange, or problem-solving conversation strengthens the relationships within the community.

The public and private dimensions of a community are interrelated. When the individual relationships among community members are strong, the events are much richer. Because participants know each other well, they often come to community events with multiple agendas: completing a small group task, thanking someone for an idea, finding someone to help with a problem. In fact, good community events allow for people to network informally. The key to designing a community is to orchestrate activities in both public and private spaces that use the strength of individual relationships to enrich events and use events to strengthen individual relationships.  

Focus on value

The source of value changes over the life of the community. Frequently, early value mostly comes from focusing on the current problems and needs of community members. As the community grows, developing a systematic body of knowledge that can be easily accessed becomes more important.

Many of the most valuable community activities are the small, everyday interactions—informal discussions to solve a problem, or one-on-one exchanges of information about a tool, supplier, approach, or database. The real value of these exchanges may not be evident immediately. When someone shares an insight, they often don't know how useful it was until the recipient reports how the idea was applied. The impact of applying an idea can take months to be realized. Thus, tracing the impact of a shared idea takes time and attention.

In fact, a key element of designing for value is to encourage community members to be explicit about the value of the community throughout its lifetime. Initially, the purpose of such discussion is more to raise awareness than collect data, since the impact of the community typically takes some time to be felt. Later, assessments of value can become more rigorous.

Early discussions greatly help community members as well as potential members and other stakeholders understand the real impact of the community.

Combine familiarity and excitement

Successful communities offer the familiar comforts of a hometown, but they also have enough interesting and varied events to keep new ideas and new people cycling into the community. As communities mature, they often settle into a pattern of regular meetings, projects, Web site use, and other ongoing activities

Communities are "neutral places," separate from the everyday work pressures of people's jobs.   Unlike team members, community members can offer advice on a project with no risk of getting entangled in it; they can listen to advice with no obligation to take it.

Conferences, fairs, and workshops such as these bring the community together in a special way and thus facilitate a different kind of spontaneous contact between people. They can provide novelty and excitement that complements the familiarity of everyday activities.

Routine activities provide the stability for relationship-building connections; exciting events provide a sense of common adventure.

Create a rhythm for the community

Our everyday lives have a rhythm.  Communities also require a rhythm. At the heart of a community is a web of enduring relationships among members, but the tempo of their interactions is greatly influenced by the rhythm of community events. Regular offline meetings and events, web site activity, and informal meet-ups ebb and flow along with the heartbeat of the community.

WE are Linked ‘N Chicago and we are a social business community with a purpose and a plan to make a better life for all in Chicago.   Join our grass roots effort to create the kind of community we can all be proud of. 

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All the best to you in 2016 and beyond!

About the Author:  Mary McFarlin is the Group founder of Linked N Chicago, Chicago's best and largest business professional networking group.  She is also the CEO of The Chicago Project LLC. Check Mary McFarlin out on LinkedIn