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Building Community Converstations - Embrace On-Line

Our world shrinks with each and every new technology. As I commentate to you I have a flow of twitter on my cell phone, incoming feedback on my video, audio, photo and text blogs all while I'm linking up coworkers, past employers, and friends. So many voices are longing to be heard, to share; hoping to build the type of community online that we are losing in our physical communities.

What makes these voices speak online when they don't speak face to face?

In an expanding population with growing time requirements we all have a limited capacity for meeting up face to face. The chance of meeting people who share interests with you becomes slimmer still, yet we all have a desire to make that connection with others. These online communities are building out of our social needs as humans and our shared interests, be they ideas, places or objects.

A primary component of this online community building is the fact that everyone has an equal voice. Even in a great democracy our voices are often stifled by bureaucracy and physical limitations. The internet takes those out of the equation, even going one step further allowing your voice to take on any form you want it to; audio, video or text - amplified accordingly.

With all of these conversations happening online how do we start affecting our local community and have more face to face interaction? This is a question many cities, organizations and businesses are, or should be, asking.

Offering people the opportunity to interact online in their time, in their way, with the community is certainly part of building local community. Columbusunderground.com is a popular resource doing just that, unfortunately it is the exception and not the rule. That site provides for a variety of conversation about local issues but does not hold any official decision making power the way conversations Columbus.gov could.

This is the leap of faith; that you invite anyone who wants to have a voice in your local community to be heard at your location. Creating the virtual space for these conversations to occur is simple enough. The difficult next step is for the community and its leaders to converse in that space.

Following up online conversations with a physical meeting allows for the same type of interaction and is crucial for inclusion and making the local community connection. Open Space and other meeting formats which replace the facilitator with an interactive host are extremely well suited to this. Every participant's ideas are equal to every other ones, regardless of position in the traditional power structure. Everyone who participates is the right person.

Since the birth of our nation we've desired greater and greater say in our destiny. The tools are now available, the desire for open and honest conversation is on the table, let's embrace a future full of diverse voices and ideas and let's build the community we all yearn for.

Andrew Miller hosts the blog : Elephants on Bicycles