When we create community it is always done on common ground. The very word community derives from the old French comunité meaning commonness. We may bring together people with big differences, but when differences exist, community can still be created on common ground. Common ground can include:
For example, common goals might be sought when a neighborhood group joins to build a new playground. A church might be formed around common values. A civic organization might be formed around the common purpose of promoting business. Even common enemies can bring us together. There is an ancient proverb saying that The enemy of my enemy is my friend, recognizing that even opposing parties can be brought into alignment through a common purpose.
We identify and connect with people who are like ourselves
It’s natural for us to connect with people like ourselves. Our similarities reinforce our own beliefs, values, interests and views of the world and reassure us that our views are “correct.” The things we share provide topics of conversation, validate us and help us to build trust. Having things in common brings us together. When my wife and I sailed through the South Pacific we found rapport with all our fellow cruisers because we shared common experiences and challenges, but our American flag was in the minority in most anchorages. When we saw another American flag it always formed an immediate cause for connection. At the extreme, we can find a species-level example of common ground in the 1996 movie, Independence Day, in which the whole planet came together to fight the invading space aliens. As we move further outward we tend to connect more with people from our home, and home can be as large as our planet.
Our common ground always exceeds our differences
If we take time to look, we will always find that our common ground exceeds our differences. I was once in a seminar with a participant who looked nothing like me. He had body art, piercings and blue hair. I didn’t think he had anything in common with my professional, somewhat nerdish style, but when he spoke about his fears, his fantasies, his feelings and his family, I realized that our core humanity was nearly identical. Within that community we found connection and became friends. That was an important lesson to me in advancing my ability to connect with others.
At the Sailing Science Center we want to build community. We have done this first with the sailing community, but are expanding outward to the science community, the art community, the business community, the education community, the museum community, the government community, the tourism community and so on. In the end we hope to create value for all these communities, bringing them together toward a common goal. That goal is a true, grass roots, community effort.