The power of community

Community is a funny thing. It can sound like a fluffy word or concept, but it’s actually really powerful.  Maybe more powerful than many things.

Community is about helping people feel connected and aligned.  When people are connected, they feel warm and good, and part of something bigger than themselves.  When people are aligned, each of their individual efforts adds to the whole overall effort, so you have a lot of leverage.

There are so many examples of this.  Here’s one: today is International Women’s Day — essentially an effort to get 1/2 half of humanity connected and aligned around a sense of community.  On a much smaller level (and as a part of that), some friends of ours own a restaurant near where we live.  As part of Women’s Day, the restaurant hosted an event, and was bustling all day long with people from the neighborhood, all wearing purple and doing a variety of activities.  The restaurant itself is an important center of community where we live, and today it was plugging into an even bigger community movement.

Or, dating back to a past life where I helped create Streetsblog and Streetfilms: these were both community media efforts in the transportation policy space.  When these launched, back in 2006, there were already plenty of organizations doing good policy work in this area.  What Streetsblog and Streetfilms added were online places where this passionate community could come together, gain energy, and grow.  The streetsblog comments section was (and is, today) a hotbed of community, and the Streetfilms videos (nearly 1000 today) highlighted community stories and community members.  It was, and is today, a powerful force that has multiplied the effectiveness of people working on these issues.

Or let’s look at examples from the cryptocurrency space, like Ethereum and Bitcoin.  Both of these (and other strong communities in the crypto space) have developed something bigger than a company ever could, in terms of the connection and alignment of the community.  These communities are wild and wooly, for sure, but they are broad and deep and powerful.  People who are deep into them feel like the are really part of something.

At USV, we invest quite a lot in community.  We have a network team whose mission it is to build community among our portfolio companies — in this case charged with helping everyone become better at their jobs, and helping their companies succeed.  The USV Network started out as a pilot program led by Gary back in 2010, was then grown larger by Brittany, and is now a 4-person team, scaled up by Bethany, that’s running over 150 events per year and managing a ~4,000 person online community.  

It can be hard to measure the impact of community, and this can make it hard to know how well you’re doing when your job is to cultivate.  But sometimes you can just know it when you see it / feel it.  

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