First and most obvious nobody is ever going to say they have a bad community. If that were the case they would just leave. When fitness enthusiasts talk about their gym the word community is added to give a sense of pride for their involvement at their gym.
This is probably the second most used word, behind “core”, that I hear in our industry. But I began to find something interesting. When I began to ask people what they meant by that word nobody could really define it.
When I asked visitors what their community is like at their home gym it is typically followed by, “great”, “everyone is nice”, or “we have some great athletes at our gym”. Now though these are great qualities of a great community these are only symptoms, or by product of a great community. Many times the word “culture” is sprinkled in there as a synonym as well. Even though communities can help create a sense of culture, these are not the same thing.
Before I define community I ask you to define it for yourself.
What will happen is that you will only find yourself generalizing what a community is but won’t be able to define what makes a community. It wasn’t until I dug deep into this word that I found the answer that I would like to share with you. Hopefully we, the fitness industry, can do a better job of managing this word in context for the sake of truth versus saying the word because it makes you sound awesome.
So now that we have that out of the way. Here is how I have come to understand it…
Communities often have a culture, but there is an important distinction between culture and community.
Culture is the “cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.”
It is embodied in books, music, people’s conscious, and even the internet. Culture can be learned. On the other hand a community is based on a set of relationships.
“Community depends on the people in it. A community is not a passive thing. Its members need to invest in it for it to exist. An individual can be familiar with any number of cultures simply by studying them.But to be a member of a community he has to be present in it, contribute to it, and be known to other members.Thus, a television channel or an Internet “channel” can create or reflect a culture, but in order for it to become a community its members have to communicate with one another–ideally in context of some goal. A community is a shared asset, created by the investment of its members. The more you put in, the more you take out.”
The distinction around community involves a dynamic relationship between individuals of like minded goals. To build a community both parties must be involved. The key factor of community is relationships. These relationships need to maintain a discourse that connect each other. Always, looking to build on the current relationship. Otherwise what you really have is a static culture where you might see people doing the same things but I would highly doubt the community is strong.
By being to better define this word we can do a great job building the very thing we are want to be proud of. A community that helps make us better people whether that is fitness, a start up company or even a Facebook group.