I recently read the book The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging and I was so inspired by its message that I reached out to the author, Charles Vogl, to see if he’d be open to being interviewed. As you can probably guess, he said yes.
A big takeaway from The Art of Community is that really strong communities, what Charles calls “cultures of belonging,” aren’t just happy accidents. They’re often designed and cultivated with purpose and intention.
In fact, Charles has identified seven time-tested principles for growing enduring, effective and connected communities.
These communities could be small, like your immediate family. And they can be larger, like a thriving yoga studio or a church with a congregation 10,000 strong.
Regardless of whether you want to be more intentional about how you are building community or maybe just how you show up in community, Charles maps out ways to build a vibrant, living culture where people are nourished by a deep sense of belonging and mutual care.
So, a little about Charles Vogl: he’s an award-winning author and executive consultant who works with leaders in tech, finance, media, government and social change organizations. He lectures and leads workshops across the country, and is a regular guest lecturer at the Yale School of Management and Yale Leadership Institute. As a speaker and writer, he draws on his experience in international human rights advocacy and social change, exploring the principles of community as they apply to both secular and spiritual leadership.
We had fun exploring his principles for belonging, especially as they relate to my book club. Give it a listen below.
1. A core characterization of community is that it’s a group of people with shared mutual concern. They care about each other. Putting people together just because they share interests doesn’t necessarily make them a community. But as Charles says, that’s a start. It has the potential to become a community.
2. Quoting Charles, we are living in the loneliest generation in American history. When we create a way for community to thrive, we’re impacting the health and well-being of our culture at its core. Our need for belonging is just as relevant as our need for nutrition and adequate sleep.
3. If you’re looking at creating community, consider the boundary principle: there’s got to be an inside and an outside. Furthermore, there needs to be a gatekeeper and a way for people to be invited in and a process for bringing people from the outer to the inner ring. Additionally, it’s helpful to know that what might serve the community is that the boundary does not have a gate. There’s nothing wrong with a firm boundary when it serves the community its meant to protect.
4. Strong communities have an articulated set of core values. These, as Charles says, draw a circle around the community and helps members understand who they are and who they aren’t.
5. Communities have a life cycle. They’re born, go through infancy, maturity and then they die. Some communities might endure for generations while some may exist for just a few months.
6. It’s not important to have your community perfectly planned and designed at its beginning. Charles’ seven principles for belonging show up more clearly and deeply in mature communities. But these provide a helpful framework as you begin to build.
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A big thanks to Charles Vogl for being my guest this week. You can find him at www.charlesvogl.com.
If you enjoyed this conversation, I’d love for you to share it so more people can start thinking about creating community. And if you feel inspired, leave a five-star review on iTunes. It helps more listeners find this podcast.
Until next time,