Naho Iguchi is NION’s Chief Community Catalyst. She tells us about her path to community design and the project.
It was 17 years ago when I first encountered someone who called himself “community builder.” Mind blowing. He, I, and 30+ friends gathered at one of our apartments, in a park, or at a party weekly, if not daily, to share our love for music and dance, battle our ideas, dive into deep philosophical questions, and just be silly. We ended up going on two big- scale adventures among many other projects: pulling off a 3-day festival for world peace in the mountains of Japan and flying to the desert in North America to participate in an art festival. Both resulted in extraordinary success. We went beyond friendship and became a community.
What’s the difference? A sense of membership that you belong to something shared with the larger 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 together, and at times separately, in the early phases of the community and how it kept shifting its forms for nearly two decades. Since then, I’m somewhat always involved in community design. I academically studied 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 our NION community.
A fundamental phenomena of human behavior
Community is neither a recent invention nor hip jargon for startups and “new-biz” development. It’s a fundamental phenomenon of human behavior. It’s been our tactic and strategy for survival for thousands of 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.
Since we are human beings, we form groups. As long as they mature naturally, groups become communities. Our needs are completely different from even 20 years ago. Logically speaking, we therefore must 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.
- Listen actively to your friends, families, teammates, and neighbors. Be curious about their needs and wants. Address them in your community activities. Then, they will stand by you.
- Community is dynamic and shape-shifting. Don’t stick to your fixed concept of what community should be.
- Community has different scales and developmental phases. Approach each layer or cluster of the community accordingly and tailor communication modes and channels.
- The meaning of membership for a company, family, school, or sport club can’t be applied to communities. It’s more loose, fluid, flexible, and volatile. That’s the beauty of it. Go with the flow. Welcome diverse people, including those who you may initially judge “this person doesn’t fit in with us.”
- Community at large isn’t exclusive only to mankind in the 21st century! Think and act holistically.