for quite some time, there’s been a bit of a debate—primarily in the blogosphere—about whether or not true community can happen online. moreover, some have argued that not only can a true sense of community not happen online, but that virtual forms of “community”—like blogs, twitter, facebook, etc—actually work to kill true community.
i tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the debate. whereas i truly believe that the internet can bring people together in ways that weren’t possible before the current technology, i can also see how, often, virtual exchanges are cheapened, distant and a bit dumbed down. the bottom line is that there’s just a certain depth of conversation that either cannot occur online (via things such as blog commenting or twitter exchanges) or that can only occur with great effort and patience and mutual understanding. very often, for instance, someone takes something i say on my blog in such a different way than what i truly meant. what was meant as a funny, obvious joke, some people take for mean-spirited commentary (like the person who can’t get over the fact that a year ago, i called old people at a conference i was at “blue-hairs”…ease up, people…take a joke…). 🙂
anyway, the point here is that i found a really cool example of online “community” that actually does create or can lead to actual community. more to the point, i think this website faciliates the possibility of community. thecommon.org is a really cool website/web tool that helps to connect communities of people and thus, meet needs of said communities. here’s how the common works (as described on the website):
People in communities (churches, colleges, businesses, service agencies) have lots of talent and a desire help each other. Unfortunately, they’re often unaware of the opportunities that exist. That’s where TheCommon.org comes in. Through a simple and efficient web tool, TheCommon.org connects people who want to help with people who have needs. Connections are made, friendships are built, and stories are created.
in essence, you sign up your “community” (a church, college, business, etc.) and you list ways that other people/communities can partner with you and meet needs. then, people can add abilities and be partnered with specific needs.
here’s a real life (potential) example. my grandma is 74 and widowed. she has a deck that’s in pretty bad shape and she expressed that she wanted to find someone who could do some basic maintenance on her deck. so, she might be able to add that need and there could potentially be someone in this region (central arkansas) that has that specific ability. in this case, either she—with the need—or the person with the ability could find each other, contact each other through the site and then be matched up to have the need met. (p.s. if you have that ability, she really does need someone…and i know nothing about working on a deck…) that’s obviously a very specific need of an individual, but the way the common seems to work, more purposely, is to match up communities (i.e. a soup kitchen has a need for workers and a church has the ability to provide people with abilities).
so, i think it will be interesting to see how this service (community) works. i plan on joining soon (more info on why i’m getting a free membership soon) and will likely sign up eikon church so we can join with other communities of need in the area.
maybe it will make a little more sense to watch a cool video they put together.