Victus Spiritus


Sure Signs of a Healthy Community

02 Jun 2011

In this morning's riff I'll call attention to the strong signals which I associate with attractive and healthy communities. These aspects apply to a broad range of social groups including teams both large and small, tightly bound or loosely coupled networks, and strict or informal organizations.

Genuine Comfort and Confidence

Communities who's members exhibit authentic comfort in their role and confidence in their team are an obvious signal of a healthy group. The community may be chillaxin' or working tirelessly, but they continue to exude an aura of quiet confidence in just about everything they do. To me, there is no trait more attractive in a community than the unspoken bond of trust between it's members.

Members by Choice

It almost goes without saying that the healthiest communities are comprised of voluntary members. There's strong internal friction in groups forced together by external forces, and those communities last only as long as they absolutely must. Involuntary organizations include the likes of drafted soldiers, prisoners, and slaves.

Tightly Coupled Locally, Loosely Associated Globally

The implicit distance metric I refer to above for local and global relationships is not bound by geography. The separation between community members today is the alignment of personal and sub-group goals. The larger community is loosely associated through broadcast web, email or occasional video communication. The local group is tightly bound through more frequent personal exchanges of information, as well as in person meetings. One mind, lots if adjacent neurons.


Belonging is being able to disagree with your community without fear of excommunication. It's a healthy response to voice opinions and be heard. Strict hierarchies are only as smart as a single leader, and often much dumber ;). Empowering individuals to make expert decisions with periodic peer review strengthens individual skill, team productivity, and enhances community perception. By accepting individual feedback the whole becomes smarter than the sum of its parts.

Enduring communities know when to at least temporarily go out of book, and buck any of the above trends. Instinct guides us as individuals to survival actions which we're not necessarily proud of, the same holds for social groups. Cognizance of community health helps balance group demands with individual needs.