Meaning and Benefits of Community Contribution

Great communication instead focuses on clarity, detail, objective thought, and a consistently high quality of interaction ~Jono Bacon:  The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation (Theory in Practice)

What is your community?  Do you belong to one or many?  How has that contribution shaped you and made you a better community member?  How do you define community and encourage others? What are the benefits to community contribution?

What does community mean?

According to “community’ means:

  • 1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  • 2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
  • 3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the ): the business community; the community of scholars.
  • 4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
  • 5. Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.

And in The Art of Community, my friend Jono starts the Preface with, “Community is a funny ol’ word.” which to me kinda’ summarizes the difficulty of defining community.  In that statement,  I found myself nodding in agreement as it’s not only a “funny” word;  it is a word that has the ability to bring forth a whole list of emotions and actions.

Questions to ponder.

  • * Community is__________.
  • * Community means_________.
  • * Community does_____________.

Pretty generic right?  OK; so let’s personalize those a little.

  • * My community is _______ to me.
  • * My community means _________to me.
  • * My community does __________for me.
  • * I contribute to my community by____________.

What comes to mind?  How do you finish those  sentences?

Recently, I had to think about some talk topics for a session I’ve been asked to give in October at a college in Illinois.  I narrowed it down to 3 topics:

  • 1 – So you think you know what you want to be when you grow up. How our lives can change and how technology can shape that future (specifically FOSS)
  • 2 – Thinking Globally Acting Locally – Applying Open Source Philosophies to your local communities.
  • 3 – Hear me roar! Finding a more confident and successful you through open source contributions.

(Side note: #2 seems to be the one most people would like to hear according to my Facebook friends who commented)

And just last night I had the opportunity to speak to a local event coordinator in the town where I live.  We talked about how and why people contribute to “community”. When trying to narrow their focus on what community means to them and who they were targeting with their message I asked them those questions above.  I talked about the online and physical community and it was a great exchange.  During the conversation I was asked, “Why do people participate in community?” and “Why should children be encouraged to participate?”

Now any of you who know me well, know I could have talked for hours on just those 2 questions and you’ll be happy to now I didn’t.  I did tie in a little about all 3 of the topics I am contemplating for my talk though. Luckily for them I had just read an article by Kimberly P. Johnson in Foothills Spotlights Magazine entitled “How does your community grow?’ where she did a beautiful job of summing up the benefits of community contribution.  The same benefits Johnson lists (though she is speaking the benefit of children participating in local community contributions) in her article are the same ones I continually tell people they will get out of their contributions to a project. These benefits include:

Benefits of Community Contribution

  • * Developing Communication Skills
  • * Endorsing Volunteerism
  • * Promoting self-esteem and confidence
  • * Gaining experience and leadership skills
  • * Building community collaboration

Remember when contributing to open source projects all of these benefits plus those lovely technical skills you may be seeking can be gained through your contributions. So, what does your community mean to you?  Do you see similarities in the benefits you get out of your contributions to different types of communities? If so, what? What has been to you the best lesson you’ve learned through your community contributions?


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