Part 1. Community
Where has it gone?
As a sixteen year old, I, like many of my peers, couldn’t wait to leave home and head to the big smoke.
I was all set to make my way in the big, wide world without a serious thought about how my life might unfold and where it would take me. No thought either about how the world around was about to change and no thought at all about how my lifelong support systems would be impacted.
As I approach the next phase of my life, I look back and wonder. What if?
What if I stayed in my old home town, would I know what I know now? Would I be the same person I am today? Would I still have the friends and networks I had then? Do I in fact have friends and networks now?
What if I chose to work my whole life in Adelaide instead of accepting the mobility that was a feature of my employment? Would I have experienced tropical splendour, the harshness of the outback or the beauty of the mountains? Would I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with business leaders, politicians and isolated communities? Would I know what I know now?
Have advances in transport, communications and mobility changed me? And are the changes in me reflected in community overall?
When I grew up, I had family. We had neighbours who, like us, were going nowhere soon. We played in the streets and the parks. Our parents usually took us places and we met kids from other schools. We expanded our horizons when we grew older. We joined sporting clubs and we met new friends at each level of schooling. If we wanted to play cricket, we knew who to ask. When we wanted to meet someone, there was always someone we knew who could smooth the way.
As we grew older, we talked to adults about more than just Christmas gifts and how we did in school. We spoke with business owners where we shopped, and tradesmen and labourers who worked with our parents. We formed the basis for our future life.
We had a community and we learned from each other.
Part 2. Community
Then the world all changed. And with it, our Community
Australia and the world changed. Not overnight, but it changed. More rapidly than before.
Advances in technology sparked our modern equivalent to the Industrial Revolution. Cars got faster and more comfortable so we could travel to the next big town instead of shopping at the local corner stores or shopping strips. Television started to show us what the wider world looked like and faster, more efficient aeroplanes could get us there more quickly and cheaply.
When we came home, we found that others had moved on and had been replaced by others we did not know. We became insular. We became isolated and we became lonely. Not all of us, but enough to ensure that community diminished.
New networks sprung up, but many of us quickly found that they were short lived. They often became more about what you are rather than who you are. If I couldn’t help you to make money, or you couldn’t help me to do the same, we moved on.
We took a promotion and changed domicile. We expected that to be short term, so we didn’t interact with our neighbours and we didn’t get involved in local events.
We no longer had community and it became increasingly difficult to learn from each other.
Part 3. Community
Social Media and the Virtual Community
Our children have worked out a solution. It is called social media. You know, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, the shorthand of Twitter, the pictography of Pinterest, the ever expanding and morphing blogosphere and so on.
This vehicle allows them to maintain contact with the hundreds of friends they have made while their parents dragged them all over the place. Or those they go to school with, but don’t see outside of that because their parents don’t socialise with other parents.
The older generation are trying to catch on and to a large extent are being successful at it.
In my youth though, we had something similar. We called it writing letters and using the telephone. We knew then that it was no substitute for actually shaking someone’s hand or the luxury of a hug. We also understood that the glint of someone’s eye told you more than words ever could.
When we met face to face, we knew that we could talk. Really talk. We could explain ourselves when we could see the listener was baffled by what we were saying. We could see if they understood. Does you interaction on your computer do all that?
Part 4. Community
What now for Community?
There is a push today to reverse the loss of community. But for it to happen, the scene has to be set. Institutions need to be established and we need to take some action ourselves.
There is still a long way to go. We all need to reach out to our neighbours in a meaningful way. If you are going for a walk, why not ask your neighbour to join you? If you see them in the garden, why not offer to help for ten minutes and start a conversation? Or perhaps just stop and ask about their lovely rose bush.
You could even try the age old tradition – ask to borrow a cup of sugar!
Part 5. Community
The Community of Business
Networking has become a business. On the upside, it fills a void that has formed with the breakdown of community. On the downside, it is often prescriptive and is usually run to rules that are set by the franchise. It often pits business against business and perpetuates inter-business rivalry among those of similar ilk. It sometimes encourages you to use the services of other members, when perhaps they are not the most suitable provider. It works for some, but for others, it is just another chore, another trap, and you may as well be still working in the large corporation that you just escaped.
In the past, we all used to yearn for an invitation to join Rotary, Apex or the Lions Club. Now, they appeal to fewer and fewer people for any number of reasons. They did (and I am sure still do) good work for the community, and serve their membership well.
Has their time passed and what is right for today?
I choose to work for myself and generally prefer to work in the isolation of my home office. It helps me work without interruption and I can often achieve much more in a short space of time. In fact I am as productive as I could be when I managed a branch office and could close my door.
It also keeps my overheads at an affordable level.
It does mean though that I am already at home, and there is a strong likelihood that I will not venture out to an event that might do me good. My interaction is with my computer. I have no community. I do not often interact with others other than my lovely lady Jane, and my clients, who generally want me to do what I am engaged to do while they go on with what it is that they do.
I want to interact with others at a professional level and a personal level. I want to talk politics and sport – even religion. I want people to ask my opinion; I want to hear the opinion of others. I want people to learn respect and trust me and I want to reciprocate.
I want something like social media, but I want to do it in person. Not every day with everyone, but regularly. I want a space where this can happen. I am prepared to pay, but don’t want to pay too much. I want to turn up when it suits me and not when I “have” to be there. I want somewhere I can plug my computer when I am between clients. Or perhaps just have a coffee. I want to be able to interact with others and learn from them and allow them to learn from me.
What I want is community.
Part 6. Community
BrainSpace – A Community Business
What we wanted is not everywhere out there.
So we set out to invent one. A community business in which we can involve others who have similar aspirations. One, which others can help us to mould.
We had been variously working from home and client premises and had caught up from time to, to have a coffee and a chat. Prior to that, we had been members of the corporate and government world and had been able to interact with colleagues on a regular basis. We missed the netball, football and cricket conversations, we missed the discussion about family and weekends away. We missed the debate about politics and public policy and we missed the opportunities to learn what came with working in the vicinity of others.
We independently turned to social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, the list grows daily) to try to fill the void, but there was something missing still. Social media had made us aware that there are many others like us – independent consultants who work in the isolation and with the interruptions of a home office.
We tossed our thoughts around and came to the conclusion that what we really missed was the social, face to face interaction of a community. A place where we could work, exchange ideas and learn. A place where we could work without feeling isolated and a place where we could come and go as we would at home. A place that didn’t cost the world, but provided the infrastructure we would need to effective carry out our work.
And so was born BrainSpace. Facebook with a face. LinkedIn without the broken link.
To understand BrainSpace, it is important to understand what it is and is not.
It offers an address in a sought after commercial area, a work space, WiFi, meeting/board room, kitchen and toilet and other benefits but it IS NOT a Serviced Office. The payments are scaled according to use, but there are NO CONTRACTS. All communities have rules, but here the rules are set by the community, NOT THE LANDLORD.
Here are some reasons you might join us at BrainSpace.
Flexible access to the BrainSpace Co Working Community
– Smart Ideas | Smart People | Smart Business
- A space limited only by your imagination. You will have access to the technology and innovation you need to work at your level. You can participate on a one off casual basis, when you are between meetings, a day a week or month or you can choose to make it your permanent workplace.
Input into social and educational events and of course an invitation to participate
- Be invited to or hold your own “Master Class” and participate in innovative learning events. Join us for more social events that will allow you to meet entrepreneurs, mentors and others who you can inform and from whom you can learn. Mentor people or be mentored.
You can collaborate with passionate people of all ages and who each bring something of themselves
- Passionate people give freely and often expect little in return. Their passion will rub off on you to help you become more productive and motivated.
BrainSpace is your collaborative Community.
- You can help us to build the BrainSpace Community and help to set the agenda. Visit our interim website at www.brainspace.com.au