Community as Shared Experience

It’s 8:30pm and drizzling slightly. I am in the parking lot across the street from the Dream Inn, after having spent the past two days touring Santa Cruz County, learning about local business and government for the Community Leadership Visit. The trip was incredible, both because of what I had learned, and also because of who I was with – a who’s who of local business leaders, elected officials and knowledgeable staff members.

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However, what I really learned about was community, both as an abstract concept, and as the familiar relationship between myself and the people around me.

A community is defined by shared experiences. From everyday norms and widely held values, to the stories and information we share about ourselves and others, communities are abstract constructions with fluid and solid boundaries alike– depending on how you ask the question. They are also inherent fixtures of the human experience, since nobody is an island and the fact that you can only truly know yourself through others. It is because of this that trips like the CLV are so important.

The event, which was organized by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, really put into perspective how important these shared experiences are in determining material outcomes. Shared experiences, when positive, not only foster meaningful relationships between people, but also create a sense of belonging to something larger than yourself. It is through these shared experiences that we define ourselves, as a community, and what we will become. This in turn translates to better decisions, and better outcomes.

A great example is our local tech community, which has blossomed from a group of eccentric and likable geeks, to a surging, and soon to be, renowned group of fledging entrepreneurs, designers and innovators. What were the catalysts that paved the way for this community to develop? Shared experiences. Starting with events like TechRaising and Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup, people started to get to know one another. Following the opening of shared workspaces, like Cruzioworks and NextSpace, this community began building off each other’s collective knowledge. Now, with things like Event Santa Cruz, they have a common voice to articulate their shared needs for overcoming common obstacles, while in the process further broadening their collective identity.

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These are the ideas that drive our vision for Civinomics, and certainly our upcoming event, Civinomicon. Civinomicon is meant to be one of those catalyzing moments for creating a different kind of civic community, a chance for everyone to meet each other and begin building relationships offline that will translate to better relationships online. Civinomics.com, our web platform, is meant to be the shared space for reconciling different perspectives, and eventually articulating common needs.

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Now creating a community from scratch is no easy task, but by facilitating the right types of shared experiences, hopefully we can move the needle towards creating a more open and transparent process for solving problems and envisioning the future.

What with the Community Leadership Visit and all the preparations for Civinomicon not to mention the various outreach campaigns we are currently conducting, these past few weeks have been an absolute blur. Filled with ups and downs, new people and new perspectives, it never ceases to amaze me how truly awesome it is to be alive and to be apart of something larger than myself. Yet beyond my own amazement, one thing has truly stuck out to me. People need community, and honestly, the more the better.

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