I’ll be honest, I didn’t grow up in a tightly knit environment. I was raised by a single mom and I’m an only child. On top of that, there was no father figure around when I was growing up, and I always longed for strong leadership. Someone to push me, guide me, believe in me and have the patience to teach me how to work through problems and navigate society. While this leadership never showed up for me personally within the home I grew up in, I did find it through music. Particularly the punk rock music community.
I was introduced to the music at a young age, probably around 11 years old and I’ve never looked back. It was there for me in a time when I felt lost, confused, disempowered and desperately in need of an outlet for aggression and a sense of belonging. I resonated with the values of the scene, of being there for your friends, of being open minded to other’s differences and not falling for a dogmatic narrative of how life should be lived based on archaic values that still to this day don’t match the current state of our society. Above all, I felt validated in my worth. I looked around and saw others at punk shows that came from similar backgrounds, that had the same upbringing, and also shared the same frustrations as I did in relation to what it means to “fit in.”
That last part is what I want to touch on today. The concept of “fitting in.” At the core of any friend group, family or large scale community is a theme of belonging, or fitting in. The sense of pride and safety that fitting in gives someone is invaluable. Without it, it’s inevitable that self destruction will occur. I mean there’s a reason isolation is a form of torture right? Of course. Yet, even within a family or lifestyle scene there can be multiple micro-communities or alliances formed. They might form around a new band, a new restaurant or a new clothing brand. These new communities may share the same values of the larger scene they are a part of – punk rock music, craft breweries, plant based restaurants etc. – but specialize in catering to a specific smaller audience and may seek to serve a smaller mission within the overall group. 6-1-VIBE is an example of this locally in Nashville. There are many clothing brands that have unique Nashville, or Nashville related designs, but very few have the sense of economic and creative preservation that 6-1-VIBE champions.
Learning the essential elements of building a community is vital to growing a brand, a business or even creating a better structure within your family. I hope these ideas spark something creative in you and help you grow closer to the end goal of your mission. So here it is: the 5 elements of community.
- COMMON MISSION– At the core of any mission is a strong sense of identity. In his book, “This is Marketing” author Seth Godin says that at the core of good marketing lies a strong sense of understanding the formula: “people like us, do things like this.” Meaning, as humans, we seek to act in a way that resonates with our personal identity we’ve adopted for ourselves. The more closely identified we are to a certain group, the more we look for ways to act in accordance with what people like us in that group do. People who care about the environment find ways to reduce waste and consume responsibly, because people who are environmentally conscious do things like that. People who care about their city find ways to protect historic monuments and support local business, because that’s what people who care about local community do. So, if you’re finding a way to grow a community around your cause, find that common mission that fits within a narrative of “people like us, do things like this.” It’s powerful when you dive into it.
- RESEARCH THE PEOPLE YOU CARE ABOUT– Let’s say you are wanting to start a non-profit for youth education, you would start by seeking to understand what the current state of education is in your city or your current school. What programs need funding? How will funding those programs help the community and the students? What’s standing in the way of your perfect vision of what the education system could be? This line of questioning also applies to building a stronger sense of community within your own family. What are the biggest issues in your household? Is it money? How can everyone come together to help solve the problem with their unique talents? Wouldn’t this create a sense of ownership for everyone involved? Isn’t that a better alternative than the hierarchical structure of most American families where all solutions rely on the mother or father? What if just paying attention and seeing your kids for who they really are and working with that information was all you needed to feel more connected?
- CREATE THE FLAG– My favorite part. Every great community needs a symbol to rally around. Something that communicates clearly what that group stands for. Similar to a logo, but not confined to a business or product. The Masonic square and compass is a symbol of fraternity and brotherhood for the Freemasons, the image of Martin Luther King at the Washington D.C. mall is a symbol of revolutionary thought and change. A flag is a symbol that unites a common core of people under a shared belief system, but it doesn’t have to be a piece of cloth on a pole. A picture, a logo, a design, any of these can be a type of flag for the community you are trying to build. This is an important part because this symbol, whatever form it may hold, takes a broad concept and distills it down into something shareable. When something can be owned and shared, it becomes a part of the people that display it proudly. Once the pride of ownership takes a hold, the momentum of the community is set in place.
- SUPPORT– This is never about you. How are you helping others reach their end goals? How do you show up to be a voice a positivity and support for those you care about? How do you show up when something goes wrong? Are you really sharing valuable knowledge with your members that, if followed, will lead to a better version of them? Support is a lot more than financial relief or a single shout out on social media. True support is continuing to show up in a way that creates exponential benefits for everyone involved in your community. Something with an end benefit that shows up weekly or even daily in the form of bringing new customers to a business, or spending real time listening to your friends or kids’ needs and desires and then FOLLOWING THROUGH by doing something meaningful for them over and over again. That is the process of building trust and true support that will create a sense of safety and positive obligation to return the favor amongst others in the community.
- EXCLUSIVITY– This may be a bit controversial, but most strong communities aren’t for everyone. I don’t think this is bad thing. Humans are beautiful, three dimensional, complex beings that are not easily boxed into one category. So to find a group, tribe, community, or whatever you’d like to call it, that cares about what you care about is a sacred thing, and something that should be heavily protected. It should mean something to be a member of your community, brand, family or friend group, and it should mean something because there’s a high code of standards one must meet to stay in the group. Don’t let the little things slide, don’t let outside organizations corrupt what you’ve built, and don’t allow the ethos of what you’ve built fall by the wayside just because it may be the easy way out.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. As always, we seek to be a valuable member of our creative tribe here locally and nationally. Bombers and Sleeves is a lifestyle and we are here to let you know we support you in your mission to bomb your boundaries and make your vision of your ideal life come to fruition. If you’re local to Nashville, please support our 6-1-VIBE line as we continue the fight to preserve our beautiful city by giving back to local business and outreach programs fighting against overdevelopment of our beloved neighborhoods. Visit http://www.bombersandsleeves.com to check out all we have to offer!