On the fourth of July I spent most of my day reading, watching baseball and waiting for my wife to finish her annual killer cake for our friend Kathy's annual 4th party. During this time I was musing on metaphors for community. I came upon the vehicle of community. The resultant mind map looked like this (you'll need to click on it to really read it, I guess):
This mind map fairly well speaks for itself. But I created it in the vacuum of my own mind. So I'd love to hear if anyone has any comments, things to add, or otherwise about it.
Even though I think the mind map does just fine on its own, I'll go over the major branches.
Types of Vehicles
Assumably, a vehicle type for a community would be its major description. So, like SUV, passenger car, or pick-up, we would have Family, Work, Faith, Topographic, and On-Line. Each of these have subgroupings (like a passenger car can be a subcompact, compact, etc).
Probably the most flack I expect from this entire analogy would come from the faith based subgroups. But, oddly enough, when I started listing the attributes of spiritual organizations and political organizations they were identical.
The types of community vehicles define their mission or, in vehicular terms, their trip. These, in turn, impact their boundaries, direction, and route.
Places to Go
The next branch is Places to Go, or Destinations. These elements are the core reasons why people want to belong to communities. I tend to believe that people join communities, even evil ones, with a mixture of relatively harmless base goals. In this case, the ultimate destinations are a mixture of Comfort and Growth.
The exact mixture of comfort or growth is individual. Indeed, they can work at cross purposes. Specifically, under comfort is the need for protection and protection can include protection from growth.
Now we move to the Fuel for our vehicles. These are even more base needs that communities meet. These ones are less altruistic. Where the "Places to Go" are the fun and ego-related reasons to go. The fuel is more survival instinct based.
Here we have the classic good / evil war spelled out. Fear and Hope tend to fuel communities. One or the other is what really propells them to complete their mission.
Community missions, even families, always have some underlying philosophy which, by design, has a moral undertone.
Right of Way
Vehicles use roadways or rails or air lanes to travel. These are called "right of way". Communities also have lanes in which to travel and these lanes are governed not so much by specific physical areas, but by rules placed by society or by the communities themselves. These lanes demarcate with whom or how members of a community can interact, what is respected or disrepected learning, and what actions one can take in a given situation. These restrictions of movement apply to both the vehicle (the community) and the occupants of vehicle (the community members).
As mentioned above, perhaps the utmost type of community pollution is insularity. Through insularity, communities protect themselves by keeping out external mores, thoughts or missions that would be contrary to those of the group. Whenever we join a community, we are usually at least tacitly adopting a world view that excludes another world view.
Competitiveness is a no-brainer. All organizations exist and build a life of their own. That life is measured in membership. The desire to gain members is often hand-in-hand with a desire for funding. With members and funding, a community will prosper and meet its mission. Without them, the community will die. Competitiveness also drives communities to over-emphasize often minor elements of their mission in order to supercharge their fear / hope fuel.
Lastly, corruption is the most vile of community pollution because it starts out as intentional and ends up systemic. When it becomes systemic, it poisons not only the given organization, but similar or related organizations as well. There is rarely such a thing as internal corruption. Corruption is often a collaborative process.
Insurance and Maintenance
Insurance would be the elements of the vehicle that would provide assurance that the community would continue to find new blood.
Maintenance encapsulates the elements within an organization that keep that blood flowing. In this case, participation is key, but attention is also key. Many organizations have enjoyed large attendance to meetings for years and then one day sort of die off after a jarring event. This can be seen in the US Catholic Church after recent scandals. This is largely because the church had a high degress of participation, but not so much of attention. Paritioners were attending because they were obligated to by the rules of the community which they had always been members of. But, after scandals arose, they asked themselves "am I really benefiting from this community?" As painful a realization as it was for some, the answer was "no."
This brings the missing element to my mind map and one that fills out the vehicle analogy. Inertia. Vehicles certainly have them, as do communities. The paritioners above were attending based on inertia ... they'd always gone in that direction, so they tended to stay in that direction. It took a jarring influence to get them to question that direction. They were "going through the motions". Intertia is a difficult force to resist.
I would very much appreciate any comments you might have for the Community Vehicle analogy. I don't think it's perfect and could stand some bolstering here and there. But I'm pretty happy with it as a starting point. I'd also appreciate it if people could give it some legs and blog about it.
Or, just point me to a link where someone already did it better than I did. ... it's been known to happen.