We spend most of our time in communities and micro-communities, some of which feel much more communal than others. Why do we develop and belong to communities? And how do we define a community?

Further, what compels us to join, contribute to and participate in a community?

Do our interests bind us through interactions? Perhaps. But, why do we need these interactions?

In our individualist culture our communities are suffering. And I firmly believe Americans are now more than ever depressed, stressed, under satisfied and unfulfilled simply because our society lacks the interconnectedness of what true community provides. Capitalism is not only killing our resources, it’s killing our souls.

Even in marriages and family units, many are missing the boat. When husbands, wives and children run in eight different directions, how does anyone experience sustained connection? Work obligations, the buzzing of Blackberry email, ballet class, soccer practice, errands, business trips, masters programs and increased earnings have taken the back burner to family meals, staying at home and seeing children’s first steps.

In this attempt to satisfy individual hunger, many end up confused, isolated, lonely and baffled they are not happy at the end of the rainbow.

Enter community. Enter the reason we join anything. The crux of community is so primal that with all of our technology and hecticness, we seem to have forgotten.

I woke up this morning realizing that communities are simply agreements formed through societal constructs and intentional groups.

Communities are all around us. A family is a community. The military is a community. Our workplace is a community. Many of us agree to be a part our micro-communities of without questioning their purpose.

Why would we belong to families, cities, churches and nations without questioning our belonging?

I think the reason is because ‘we belong’ and to we need to belong. Human beings need connection. And beneath that, we need to love and be loved. Communities provide a platform that gives us the opportunity to experience that. And when we experience human connection, we’re compelled to contribute and participate on an intensified level. Sometimes, we’re even compelled to change our beliefs.

There are communities with dangerous consequences, such as violent gangs, militaries, extremists and even the Holocaust. Why do these groups exist? What does their communion provide? I firmly believe these groups, these communities form out of our hierarchy of needs: safety/security and the need for belonging and love. We know that when one or both of these things are missing, there is a vulnerability for misguided leadership and followers attempting to fill a void.

We need each other for safety and beyond that we need the friendship and the association we get from sharing an interest, cause or set of beliefs. And isn’t that awesome? We’re not robots after all.

Online communities are built on the same premise and if you notice, some of the most successful communities on the web spend a considerable amount of time, energy and effort into listening to the people they serve, creating a reality that focuses on their collective needs (often at the cost of immediate profit).

I believe this new age of sharing utilizing collaborative consumption will gain more and more momentum. Underutilized space, time and resources are economically advantageous, but they also provide a segue to fill that void of lost human connection in a powerful, positive way. Sharing is almost voluntary communism, started by the people for the people rather than mandated by a dictator.

When we’re able to reach out to a stranger and help them, help themselves, we both win emotionally and economically. Our most ultimate needs becomes fulfilled. By sharing, we create new communities born out of a new kind of shared interaction. Instead of sharing the same currency, we’re sharing physical objects and beyond that we’re sharing ourselves.

These concepts aren’t meant to be ethereal and airy fairy. These concepts, these ideas and dare I say these facts will change the way we do business. The internet is an equalizer. We’re at the beginning of something big, only this time instead of technology connecting people, people will connect technology to make a better world for all of us.

What are examples of a community?
marriage = community
family = community
work/job = community
church = community
city = community
extremists = community
gangs = community
military = community
Holocaust = community
country = community
non-profit = community
LGBT = community
startup team = community
business = community
Craigslist = community
Couchsurfing = community

What does a community provide?
community = belonging
community = togetherness
community = ownership
community = commonality
community = shared experience
community = purpose/mission
community = association

Why do communities exist?
belonging
togetherness
commonality
shared experience
purpose/mission
association
= safety & security & need for human connection

human connection = desire to love and be loved

How about some graphical examples of emotionally charged groups of people who connect through their commonality, shared experience, mission and commitment.

Here’s the the community at Greenpeace striping on a glacier to protest global warming. I just thought this one was funny.

The community of Urban farms is becoming stronger and the need for local food grows. Check out these kids in Grand Rapids learning how to plant new crops.

These volunteers spent their whole weekend with the Couchsurfing staff brainstorming ways to attract new members and grow the community without compromising the mission.

The soldiers below are chanting during a military basic training for the U.S. Airforce in Texas.

Muslims pray five times per day, often in markets, outside, in their businesses homes and usually in groups. As a community, they share the belief that prayer is as essential as food or shelter.

We even marry into community.

marry into family for community