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Self-Curating Communities - Can It Be Done?

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Posted by Brian Jenkins

A few weeks ago, StartingUp Now had the privilege of being invited to participate in the Techweek 2012 Conference + Expo.

It was both an honor and great experience to learn that Chicago has a burgeoning tech community that may soon rival Silicon Valley! What was immediately obvious is that the Chicago Tech Community knew each other via both their professional and personal relationships.

Techweek simply provided another opportunity for the "community" to officially gather, collaborate, grow deeper and share. It was affirming to see that an idea could literally "host" an event and create meaningful engagement at many levels. Though at a conference of several hundred companies—many of which were being introduced to each other for the first time—there was a sense of genuine authenticity in this large, entrepreneurial gathering. Maybe I was just new to the party as the person “from the outside looking in," but it was refreshing all the same.

Similarly, almost 20 years ago, I settled into an urban community on Chicago's west side, moved by my Christian faith and filled with a hopeful desire for connectedness and engagement. Admittedly, there was much learning and relationship building to be done with those sharing similar values and a serious commitment to see real change occur. Those in our network were younger, optimistic, and looked at challenge as opportunity.

Many years later, the increasing weight of what we were really up against in our community change efforts (i.e. structural issues and systems) became more apparent—and our optimism began to wane. Many individuals and families left. Some moved on to pursue new interests and/or new careers while others relocated to be closer to family. Others just gave up and moved on.  Maybe we were too tight-knit, too homogenous, too like-minded and needed space to grow and be influenced by others not in our immediate community. Who really knows?

As StartingUp Now proceeds to enter unfamiliar networks and communities as a "newcomer” in these spaces, I'm mindful of the experiences and opportunities that have moved me in this direction. I'm also hopeful that "curating community" through social media will extend our ability to connect with others who share similar values, dreams and ambitions.

Yet, I'm optimistic that a "self-curating community" (i.e. tech, startup, social enterprise, etc.) will listen to new ideas, seek collaboration vs. isolation, and incorporate the voices of others that empower individuals and groups. Communities must be given the freedom to decide their own reality.

I believe it’s for this reason that we, as entrepreneurs, are drawn to self-curating communities as it provides a forum to not only share our ideas while engaging with others’ unique concepts, but are then encouraged to push one another to the limit in our viewpoints and activities. Simply put, we are given a chance to try and try again.

Anonymous commented on 20-Jul-2012 08:43 AM
Interesting use of the words "community" and "curating"... Do you know the phrase: "got your back"? How does that apply in what you wrote?
Anonymous commented on 23-Jul-2012 12:02 PM
Hi Jay, Thanks for your comment. We'd like to address your question, but wanted to clarify what you were asking. Can you expound a bit so that we understand how to answer your inquiry? Thanks, Grace
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