Monday, 5 August 2013

Is Community Networking More Beneficial Than Rugged Individualism?

What is “Community Networking” and why do we need it?

Unlike traditional networking, in which individuals market their products and services by entering into business relationships, in community networking members of a community work together for the good of everyone in the community. In this context, a community can be those living within a geographic area, like a neighborhood, or those with similar interests and backgrounds, like the gay community. Job seekers in a given area can be considered a community. Members can form business relationships, but they also provide each other with support, education and encouragement. Everyone wins. In hard times, survival for many means helping each other. Community networking is suitable for anyone. Businesspeople may find worthwhile business contacts, job seekers may find potential employers or job referrals, and those having difficulty with their job or career situations may meet others in the same situation. All who participate will find other members willing to share information and help their fellow members in some way.

The “Three Musketeers” approach to networking

This is about all for one and one for all. It’s a concept that’s alien to the average American, who has been indoctrinated by “the system” to believe that to succeed or survive, they must fend for themselves. Our culture doesn’t encourage us to band together and support each other in times of difficulty. Rather, it does the opposite: it encourages us to compete with each other for what we need and want. It’s a culture of rugged individualism.

When a member of your community comes to your aid, it’s usually because they want to help a fellow member in need. An example of this is when a member of a LinkedIn© group gives you constructive advice for free after you post an inquiry on the group’s message board. Although you can form an alliance with someone in a position to help you, it’s less likely that your ally’s motive for doing so will be altruistic. For example, you may form an alliance with someone in a company you’d like to work for whom you met at a business networking event. However, if that person refers you for a position with the company, it may be because they’ll receive a bonus or positive recognition. And they’d still have to know you before they’ll feel comfortable recommending you.

Oprah Winfrey said on her TV show in 2009 that we in America don’t think in terms of community. Rather, we’re a culture of millions of individuals going in separate directions. If we’d work together and be supportive of one another, she said, we’d accomplish more and improve our quality of life.

One reason corporations accomplish their objectives more easily than individuals do is because they make use of the combined energy of several or many individuals. Why can’t we do that in our communities, so that we can have much better communities?
The standard networking model involves a marketing or business approach.  The desire for profit and earning money has been the glue that motivates individuals and holds our economy together. If you studied economics, you’d recognize this as the “invisible hand” theory. Unfortunately, earning money is far from easy, yet there’s still a need for people to help each other.

Why not just attend business networking events?
At a business networking event, everyone is on his or her own. If you don’t find someone to do business with, you go home empty-handed. With community networking, on the other hand, you’ll meet more people, not just business people but also people who know business people and can provide a referral. Thus there’s a greater possibility of making a worthwhile contact. Your geographical range is expanded as well.

You can also learn valuable skills or improve upon your skills more easily with community networking. Members are more likely going to share their knowledge with others at no charge, because they know they’ll be getting something valuable in return: training in skills they don’t possess, and or valuable contacts.
Due to the large number of people unemployed or underemployed in our society, there’s a need for a network that’ll help these people cope with their discouraging situations. Members of a community network can share their experiences with each other, offer advice, refer business or employment or even form an enterprise together. In this way a community network is similar to organizations like AA and Al-Anon.

All this makes for a cohesive networking organization, one that contributes to the well-being and growth of all members. The community networking model is built upon a simple but strong foundation: In Unity there is Strength.

This doesn't mean, however, that the goals of community networking and business networking are mutually exclusive. You may find it advantageous to attend meetings of both kinds of networking.
If neighborhood networking is too limiting, try a different approach

Many people would take issue with the suggestion that you can meet more worthwhile business contacts by networking with your neighbors than at a business networking event. I'd be the last to dispute that since when I lived in Northern Arizona, I was in a semi-rural town within a retirement area with little hope of meeting prospective clients or employers in that area. However, since I moved to the San Francisco Bay area recently, I've seen that there are many more opportunities for productive networking since the economy here is more robust and the business environment more dynamic. Moving to another geographic location is therefore a solution for those who thrive on face-to-face contact as a means of advancing their careers.
By extension, visiting a certain website that's compatible with your interests and participating in activities announced on the site, or communicating with the group’s or organization’s members can offer worthwhile networking opportunities that your neighborhood may not offer.

Some examples of Community Networking
Here are some examples of how community networking can help you.
·         Easily exchange pet sitting or pet care services
·         You may be offered a speaking engagement
·         You can trust whom you’re doing business or associating with
·         Barter your product or services
·         Have a free place to stay when you travel
·         Less competitive, more cooperative networking
·         It offers a support network for those who are unemployed or who are having difficulty coping with their job or career situation.

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