What makes you feel you’re part of a community? Shared geographical location? Similar interests? Demographics? A group may be designated by any of these traits, but the power of collectives is in their purposeful ability to create change. I believe that there are two aspects to community which make it an invaluable resource: the impact it can have on an individual, and the benefits to society it can offer.
Altruism, selflessness, and the desire to give back to others can offer fulfillment in this egoistic and competitive world. Being a part of a community offers emotional support, the exchange of resources, skill-sharing, and the comfort of knowing you are not alone. Communities also offer a place to air grievances and come up with solutions with a grassroots approach, which can impact public opinion and even legislation when efforts are well-organised.
The internet majorly expanded the possibilities of community reach. These days, location does not determine access to communication, but rather a stable WiFi connection. No need for expensive long-distance phone calls when emails, instant messenger, video chat and an endless multitude of social media platforms enable people living around the world to speak in real time.
Take for example the shesaid.so network of women working in music, founded in London and now based in over 15 cities worldwide. The platform was created out of both common interests and social issues; an email listserv where women in the same industry could share their accomplishments, opportunities, make connections, and discuss adversity often faced based on gender. This forum for conversation grew into a mission to combat the pay gap, workplace harassment and inequality on a global scale.
Here in Berlin, 30% of the city’s three million inhabitants are immigrants, and therefore the need for community can be especially valuable to people of differing cultural backgrounds. Factor in complex bureaucratic requirements, a challenging language, and numerous other obstacles faced when moving to a new country, and this need becomes one of survival. A local group working to create social equity in the face of such issues is aequa, which provides gatherings, workshops and resources via reciprocity and collaboration.
One of the most important benefits of community is the empowerment of marginalised groups, particularly for queer/trans/non-binary individuals and people of color. Berlin’s House of Living Colors, a drag community celebrating QTBPOC performers, exemplifies this value. Though this city is known as a queer epicenter, it often fails to be intersectional for those who are not cis and white in appearance. Communities like HOLC encourage equality, fair payment, and safety as basic rights to all people regardless of their varying identities.
Sharing seems to be the commonality of community, along with empathy and compassion. If you’re not already part of one, consider the benefits of participating in groups outside of your circle of friends to both give and receive knowledge and care. Chances are, you will only benefit from doing so.
Melina Powell is a freelance project & event manager, currently working for Night Embassy Berlin by Jägermeister and shesaid.so, a global network of women in music. Become a member at: shesaid.so