I've got some community-building challenges rattling around my brain from a nice conversation this afternoon. For context, the ultimate goal here includes building a community that feels that its tribe encompasses all (or as much as possible) of humanity. But even getting started with that group identity seems to face some special difficulties.

Just to mention the biggest, I already know that a "for everyone" community goes against the basic ingroup-outgroup dynamic. Like light and dark make each other, the existence of "in" and "out" is what allows a boundary to exist, and identity needs some sort of boundary. The word "identity" literally means "who or what I am, and therefore also what I am not". Just want to say, I don't think this one is fatal: I hypothesize that the (non-human) world itself can be the common foe. Moloch, egregores, the cold uncaring galaxy... I think there's plenty to define against without needing to do so against other humans.

Now, on to the current thoughts. These revolve mainly around starting, seeding, and early growth of a community: the first handful, up to 20, maybe up to the first 200 (though those can re-occur many times in a distributed model).

One tricky challenge is finding a specific enough definition. I was told an anecdote that "the best meetups are niche" because they are specific enough to feel special in who they attract. That a generic "20-somethings hangout" is usually less popular than "20-somethings with dogs who like to drink beer", despite the (but really because of) the latter being a small subset of the former. I believe it.

One way to be specific is to have a tight mission. To e.g. "make friends and have everything be the best" likely triggers a "yeah cool, but that doesn't mean anything" reaction. I have vacillated on what kind of mission is required, or whether it needs to be mission-oriented. A possible alternative is to have a specific set of practices, which facilitate a way of being that is different enough to be obvious how special it is.

Specificity at the very start, however, runs counter to attracting co-creation. This kind of community needs community-builders and creators in order to form, cohere, and evolve while self-correcting in those critical early generations. Starting too specific would just attract followers, more than creators. So I want to attract the "right" people for community creation by setting up just enough of an initial defining frame, but not so much that the work of creation is perceived as done!

Co-creation is critical because this all will really "take a village" and because diversity is key to equity, which is key to universal empowerment and the self-transforming way of being the needs to suffuse this new society. But it's probably very hard to attract diversity because openness - to diversity, and to new experiences in general - is correlated with one side of the culture war! It's a shame that we're so deep into this now that almost everything is polarized. Haight's work on Moral Foundations Theory might not fully replicate, but it does seem fairly evident that openness and conservatism butt heads easily, even if the woke church of post-modernism also attracts its share of reflexive closed-ness as well.

Language itself has been weaponized. So many words are now shibboleths used within only one side of the progressive or conservative churches ("churches" in the secular sense of meaning-defining worldviews with self-reinforcing communities). It seems very hard to walk the fine line of using neutral language, and even succeeding at doing so might just piss of both sides equally. Language isn't about fairness or rationality, it's about connecting with people - and they need "safe" enough language even to listen.

I suppose it's a given that one can intentionally optimize for certain dimensions of diversity, and pick which ones to focus on, but that you can't fix all of them without the venn diagram being empty. Racial diversity, red tribe vs blue tribe, economic inequality, adult development stages... ultimately we need to bridge across all these divides, but there's no way to start in that state. So I guess that progressive expansion of diversity has to be baked in to the structure itself. Any community will start rather uniform when small, but it will need to be a core principle and practice to diversify across more dimensions later with growth.

After thinking through the act of writing the above, I find myself leaning more towards the "way of being" approach of being practice-oriented primarily and mission-oriented secondarily. I also find myself a little more comfortable with seeking resonance in early community members/creators initially, despite the challenge of diversity. Hopefully humility in awareness and intentionality can be held strongly even by a somewhat-homogeneous group. Land-and-expand, as there's no way I can see to whale-hunt.

Those are leanings, though. Trying not to lock into them. I want to embody openness, co-creation, and self-awareness within myself as I try to define and create without getting attached to this thing as feeling like it's "mine".