The history of the world stands on the importance of community. No sole genius alters the pages of time without some kind of support group. Virginia Woolf did not make literary history by herself. Susan B. Anthony could not take on women’s suffrage without the women who stood next to her. A long line of mentors, friends, and believers stands behind Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. No athlete wins trophies without trainers, no artist gains recognition without those who see her work and share it, and today, few businesses can stay relevant without collaboration.
It is an understatement to say that the world has changed drastically in the last decade, but these changes (social media, a challenging job market, our awareness of the global village) have only served to heighten both our need to have a community and our ability to construct this community of our own accord. Years ago, the people we gathered with were restricted to church groups and political organizations, PTAs and the families and couples who lived on our block.
The communities that could move mountains, the communities that have shaped the course of history are no longer out of our grasp. They are at our fingertips. We can build them ourselves.
Maintaining a core group that spanned continents was inaccessible to most American women, which could explain the way our culture has romanticized the teaming creative communities of Paris in the 1920s, the free spirited bands that crisscrossed the country in the 1950s, and the exclusive, eclectic dinner parties of Manhattan in the 1980s.
Times have changed. The communities that could move mountains, the communities that have shaped the course of history are no longer out of our grasp. They are at our fingertips. We can build them ourselves.
In fact, we must build them. Our economy cannot thrive without collaboration, without the wellspring of ideas and improvements and revolutions that come from communities of people in boardrooms, in coffee shops, and in kitchens across the country and across the world. While a light bulb may go off in solitude, it takes a community to execute. Look no further than The EveryGirl itself for proof. This platform was started not only by two friends sharing ideas, but by a community of bloggers who came together to contribute and share. Refinery29 started much the same way. So did Net-a-Porter. So did WhoWhatWear. So did Nasty Gal. Company founders are the drivers of change and rightly they get most of the press, but none of them stand alone.
The great communities, the communities make history, the communities that launch organizations and political movements and social good, won’t happen on their own. They are intentional, not contrived; thoughtful, not strategic. They are safe places, open places where a menagerie of exceptional people can share their talents and dreams and ideas. These communities are places without pretense, where cool status and political correctness take a back seat to character and loyalty and talent.
Be present. Be active. Listen. Create spaces for friends of friends to share experiences and to build bridges.
If then, communities are the great economic building blocks of the future, as well as the heart of our personal lives, and if we have more access to building these communities than ever before, how do we go about doing so? Where do we begin? How do we go about nurturing relationships and allowing them to grow and flourish?
In general, it is always best to lead by example. You must be the first one to be open to ideas, to collaborations, to starting a movement that will grow. Throw a party and let your friends and acquaintances meet each other – it is undeniable that something magical happens when people share food together – be the catalyst for this magic and you will be surprised by the similarities and passions that surface. If hostessing, though valuable for bringing your group together, is not your thing, start smaller. Try a lunch date with a few different girlfriends together at your favorite tea spot. Initiate a group movie night, a cooking class, a hike or a day trip to see friends in another city. Be present. Be active. Listen. Create spaces for friends of friends to share experiences and to build bridges.
Best of all, the stronger your community grows, the more power you have to change the world.
You don’t have to be the next Hillary Clinton or Ellen or Mother Teresa, but you might be surprised at the talent and passion that exists within your own circle. Your job may not be to stand in front and rock the world. Instead, your job may be to support your friend who is doing just that, to give her a safe place, an incubator for ideas, and a room full of inspiration. Either way, history needs your involvement.
Remember that a community is not a clique, it is an organism that must evolve to survive, taking in new members, new friends, with new skills and interests and philosophies. A community is not you and your best friend telling each other everything, that is a relationship that is special and separate and good, but it is not a community. A community is your support network on a broader scale, your pool of inspiration, the cast of characters that color your life, and your opportunity to serve and encourage others. Best of all, the stronger your community grows, the more power you have to change the world.