Naho Iguchi is NION’s Chief Community Catalyst. She tells us her personal story about community design and the NION project.
It was 17 years ago when I first encountered with someone who called himself,”community builder.” Mind blowing. He, I, and 30+ friends gathered at one of us’ apartment, in a park, or at a party weekly, if not daily, to share our love for music an dance, battle our ideas, dove into deep philosophical questions, and just be silly. We ended up to go for two big-scale adventures among many other projects: pulling off a 3-day festival for world peace up in mountains in Japan and flying to the desert in north America to participate in an art festival. Both resulted in extraordinary successes. We went beyond friendship and became a community. What’s the difference? A sense of membership that you belong to something shared with the large crowd, and a sense of ownership that you actively and deliberately influence what you belong to.
What was most remarkable is the path that we took unitedly, and at times separately, during the early phase as the community and how it kept shifting its forms for nearly two decades.
Since then, I’m somewhat always involved in community design (I prefer not to use the word “build” selectively). I academically studied about organizations, professionally launched and nurtured multiple communities, developed methods of community facilitation and guided other people for it, and am again taking on a new challenge to grow NION community.
A fundamental phenomena of human behavior
Community is neither a recent invention nor a hip jargon for startups and new biz dev. It’s a fundamental phenomena of human behavior. It’s our tactic and strategy for survival for thousands years. Community is a mirror of our needs. Community is a smart way of storing resources. Community is a body of knowledge. Community is a system to raise more children. Community is a protection of our insecurity. Community is our faith in bonding and loving. As long as we are human beings, we form groups. As long as they mature naturally, the groups become communities. The thing is that our needs are completely different from those of even 20 years ago. Logically speaking, therefore, we gotta change how we shape our communities: Reinventing purposes and processes of the communities.
Here are my two cents that I have learned and been taught through my journey with the numerous communities around the world. I practice these lessons in NION community design.
1. Listen actively to your friends, families, team mates, and neighbors. Be curious about their needs and wants. Addressing them in your community activities. Then, they will stand by you.
2. Community is dynamic and shape-shifting. Don’t stick to your “fixed” concept of what community should be.
3. Community has different scales (size) and developmental phases (time). Approach to each layer or cluster of the community accordingly and tailor communication modes and channels.
4. The meaning of membership for a company, a family, or a school, or a sport club can’t be applied to community. It’s more loose, fluid, flexible, and volatile. That’s the beauty. Go with the flow. Welcome diverse people, including those who you may initially judge “this person doesn’t match us.”
5. Community at large isn’t exclusive only to mankind in the 21st century! Think and act holistically.