Work (it's a community)!

Submitted by DavidClarke on October 29, 2012 - 12:16pm
If work builds community, how do we get more people working?

Have you ever found a friend at work?  Do you enjoy spending time with your co-workers (even if you don't enjoy your job)?

Employers often overlook the effects of community at work.  Creating a positive working environment is often the result of removing the barriers that prevent community at work.  These barriers are often things like "lack of communication," "lack of involvement," "Inadequate time," and so on, and so on.

Take Valve Software, for example.  Valve has a results-oriented work environment - which can be great, or it can be terrible (no reference - just personal experience).  But what Valve has done, is to create an employee/employer relationship where success is the result of unsupervised, but passionate work. Their employee manual explains that the manner in which they contribute is self-directed, so long as the quality of work remains consistently high.  Sound unrealistic? Well, it works for Valve... but, I don't know how many non-tech companies could do it.  

What better way to build community? Providing individuals a place where they are needed, and allowing them to choose how they can best contribute.  While Valve has a few guidelines in place to ensure that no social loafing occurs (it is work, after all), those guidelines may not be important for developing a social community, a local community, or a municipal "community".

For general community building, though, you wouldn't necessarily get paid.  So, are volunteers the answer?

Volunteerism isn't about monetary benefits - generally speaking - and it is done by people who want to do it (it's voluntary, after all).  What motivates people to volunteer?  All sorts of things!  Volunteers will help because they want to advance a cause, support a movement, get work-related experience (and advance their own movement), or to help reach a goal (generally something personal).  

So I'm left to ask : Do volunteers ever participate for the sole purpose of building community? If so, how do we get more volunteers? And if not, how do we get more volunteers?  The end result is the same.


Hello David,


Thanks for your insights! Yes, as we think of "community building," we often think this has to take place outside of our working life (unless of course we work for a not-for-profit organization- or something else that feels directly related to community building). I like that you have pointed out that our work environments ARE communities and hold the potential to deepen.

That said, I think volunteerism almost holds greater potential for community building, than even a work environment as we often (although not always) choose to volunteer. We are intrinsically motivated to come to the volunteering work; a passion/interest/concern within us moves us to this work. Not that this does not happen for work- but it is different as there are more defined extrinsic motivators- being paid, direct feedback/raises, etc.

I'm sure volunteers, just as much as those who work, can be people who are passionate about what they do. They are people who make amazing progress and do amazing things at work and do it more selflessly than even those who volunteer--- I bet we can find exceptions to finding more value in eith work of volunteering.... it comes down to the individual. Their motivations.

How are your thoughts, David? Anyone else?

The Power of volunteerism

I think what makes volunteering special is generally speaking, people volunteer with things they are passionate about, as soon as the passion moves, generally the people do to.  Work doesn't have near this kind of flexibility.  I do like work spaces that create more room for their employees to find their passion and follow it within the structure of the organization, I think that will thus make the worker more effective.

As for your question Dave about workers volunteering soley to build community, it depends if this is their passion, neighbourhoods are a good example of people focusing on community buiding.  THat being said communities usually form around issues, interest or ideas and people volunteer for those as opposed to strictly community building.