Before I finished reading Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer’s book Open Community I was already raving about it. I passed it around the room of the leadership conference where I was speaking. I had earmarked page 48 “Get Used to Sharing Control.” My presentation and workshop was focused on business planning for state groups. And this chapter of 3 paragraphs summed up the biggest challenge and greatest opportunity for chapters in a way I couldn’t: “you are, in essence, sharing control…”.
Yes these three paragraphs are about on-line communities. But the message isn’t confined to the world of the web. No matter what community you are talking about and working with the issue of sharing control is a key to success. I actually think of it as sharing destiny. You see when we all share the same goal, all yearn for the same destiny, it’s not a matter of who’s got control. It’s a matter of assigning jobs and making it happen. When you are a chapter in the midst of putting together your annual plan, it can’t be about who’s in charge but about who’s on the team to get the job done. It has to be about sharing responsibility and therefore control.
I love Maddie and Lindy’s closing statement for this chapter: “That’s a whole new kind of control, and your community is your safety net.”
As I read this chapter, there is also a clear message for national staff as they look at their virtual and face-to-face communities. In both cases, sharing control lets the community take ownership and in that act they become a driven community. A driven, engaged community serves its members and achieves goals. An engaged community - be it on land or in the ethernet - is your safety net!
How do we help communities become safety nets? As national association staff, we need to determine what rules and policies are critical from a legal and risk standpoint and get rid of the rest of them. we need to shed old structures and ancient bylaws. These freedoms allow communities to set the boundaries that make sense to them; It allows them to choose the goals that will make a difference to them. It allows them to thrive.
There are many other messages in the book including an intriguing chapter entitled “Citizens versus members.” Now there’s another conversation! So just go buy it. And watch for more about the book since I'm proud to say we're on the virtual book tour!