During the Progressive Era, L. J. Hanifan, a practical reformer and visionary, defined a new conceptual invention, terming it “social capital,” writing:
. . . those tangible substances that count for most in the daily lives of people: namely good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit. . . . The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself. . . . If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors.
Tribes of Trust
Hanifan’s social capital, in networking, is built through “tribes of trust.” Leaders build trust within the tribe and trust builds a culture of reciprocity (the Golden Rule) within the community. Reciprocity creates speed within the tribe, because people learn that deposits made into the community will be reciprocated, even without a ledger account. The tribe, in other words, through building trust, creates a culture of reciprocity, which, like a tide raising all ships, lifts everyone within the tribe. Yogi Berra’s defined reciprocity by saying, “If you don’t go to his funeral, he won’t go to yours.” Perhaps a better definition is from Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, “A society characterized by generalized reciprocity is more efficient than a distrustful society, for the same reason that money is more efficient than barter. If we don’t have to balance every exchange instantly, we can get a lot more accomplished. Trustworthiness lubricates life. Frequent interaction among a diverse set of people tends to produce a norm of generalized reciprocity.”
The best compensated community builders, therefore, build “tribes of trust” where reciprocity flows throughout the organization. Trust produces reciprocity, which builds speed and growth. The fastest growing tribes have leaders who serve their communities, trusting that this service will be reciprocated. In fact, its the leaders who must initiate the service model to others. When the tribe sees the leaders example, it reciprocates service throughout the organization. Those who serve, in other words, deserve. Leaders without the tribe’s trust will not maintain their following. Abraham Lincoln aptly stated, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.” When the tribes discovers the leader isn’t authentic, the culture reverts to the all too familiar selfish motives.
Those Who Serve, Deserve
Unfortunately, networking is filled with examples of fast growing communities which eventually crash and burn. For when leaders forget that tribes are not sheep to be sheared, but rather people to be served, the crash is imminent. Great leaders are servants, period. Servant leaders achieve results when their groups reciprocate the love invested unconditionally into them. The tribe serves others, not by compulsion, but through compassion. Effectively, people respond in kind when they experience the time deposits from the leaders. Not surprisingly, the level of reciprocation is equivalent to the level of leadership currently inside of the person. For example, a true leader isn’t going to remain passive when multiple deposits are made into his life and business by up-line leaders.
Culture of Reciprocity
In essence, the best kept secret in community building is its culture of reciprocity. With the breakdown of family, friendship, and faith throughout Western Society, compensated community building tribes provide a sense of belonging and safety for thousands of previously isolated people. Compensated communities isn’t just a way to make money, its a force for good in a world declining from lack of community. Most people feel something is missing in their life, even though few understand the angst traces back to lack of community roots. Putnam, again, emphasizes this point, “Social capital turns out to have forceful, even quantifiable effects on many different aspects of our lives. What is at stake is not merely warm, cuddly feeling or frissons of community pride. We shall review hard evidence that our schools and neighborhoods don’t work so well when community bonds slacken, that our economy, our democracy, and even our health and happiness depend on adequate stocks of social capital.”
Compensated Communities: Have Fun, Make Money, and Make a Difference
A healthy compensated community tribe has three attributes:
1. Tribes have fun
2. Tribes makes money
3. Tribes makes a difference
Having fun and making money are different sides of the same coin. In truth, the tribes making the most money seem to have the most fun. Remember, people join the tribe for many reasons, with most members never intending to become wealthy. Instead, they join because of the the fun and fellowship offered within the community. Strikingly, more people quit communities due to hurt feelings than from lack of profit. Tribal leaders must never forget this point. Make joining the community fun and a person will never lack volunteers who desire association with the tribe. People aren’t looking for another job, but would love to find a fun-loving community who are accomplishing something with their lives.
Ultimately, the real goal of community building should be to make a difference. Having fun and making money are great, but unless people grow personally, the tribal experience will seem shallow. One of the greatest joys for leaders is when a teammate has a personal breakthrough. Perhaps he was struggling with his marriage, blaming his wife for the situation. However, through reading, listening and association, he realizes it wasn’t his wife, but his attitude that created the problem. Typically, truths are discovered in communities through comparing a person’s life to the examples around him, not being hit upside the head by his leader. Community building, done properly, provides a fun-loving tribe of purpose-driven encouragers for people to experience acceptance and belonging. Over time, the new community’s models of servant leadership give a person permission and the courage to confront and change himself. Essentially, compensated communities are a platform for people to have fun, make money, and make a difference. What a noble profession we belong to. Sincerely, Orrin Woodward