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  • Writer's pictureDan Berger

How Communities Can Unlock a Sense of Belonging for Members

This is the 4th of a 5 post series on how authentic communities can contribute to our sense of belonging. Previously, I wrote about finding real belonging, offered a taxonomy for communities, and enumerated steps to creating an authentic community.

Imagine: You walk into a room and you’re greeted warmly. Your shoulders instantly relax and you feel “at home.” You engage in a ritualistic experience by the members who had come before and after you. You feel safe–physically, then mentally, and finally emotionally–which empowers you to engage with those around you. You’re comfortable being vulnerable and you participate passionately in discussions with others, voicing your dissenting opinions as easily as your agreements. You instantly see value in being a part of the community and are committed to its success.

What I’ve described could be a company's office, a private membership club, or even a virtual meetup. The uniqueness of the experience in the environment lies in the organizers’ cultivation of a sense of belonging for its members.

Not every affinity group, club, or organization can create this sense of deep belonging in its members. By virtue of their deliberate design, only Authentic Communities unlock belonging thanks to a virtuous cycle they thoughtfully foster.

After the community has differentiated from the pack to become an Authentic Community, it can embark on the virtuous cycle of creating a sense of belonging:

  1. Genuine Hospitality: Hospitality is a core virtue of Authentic Communities. Everyone is warmly welcomed when they join and enter. Each person is treated with respect by staff and fellow members. There are a set of rituals that ground the members.

  2. Physical and Psychological Safety: The gathering space is secure and time together is sacred. The community feels exclusive to those that are a part of it but inclusive to those inside of it (“consciously exclusive”). Members feel a sense of comfort that allows them to let their guard down and reveal their authentic selves.

  3. Sincere Peer-to-Peer Engagement: Each member engages with fellow members with vulnerability. There is comfort with disagreement, which is rooted in caring for each other. Unpopular opinions are respected and lead to greater discussions.

  4. Organizational Commitment: Members invest time in and on the community to define/refine membership, proactively participate, and execute rituals. They care about the community's success, each other's success, and their own success – in that order.

The facets above are the cheat code to unlocking deep belonging within a community. When you see these behaviors and cultural norms within a community you’re passionate about, lean in and help offer the experience to others – join the virtuous cycle.

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