Constellation for Collaboration

Helpful Links

Common Pool Resources


One of my driving ambitions is to strengthen community and encourage collaboration everywhere. Every society is a complicated network, like an ecosystem. The system has inertia – it’s hard to make changes in the way it functions. A whole constellation of technologies and institutions is necessary to make a sustained change.

I have begun building a blueprint for stronger community. Anyone should be able to take the blueprint and use it to strengthen their community – it is supposed to be a ready-made package. I’ll need anyone reading this to add their own thoughts to the list. As the blueprint shapes up, I’ll also need other types of help. Website design, for example, will be necessary for some of the community resources.

Existing groups

Most areas have a number of groups that already work to strengthen community. Working with these groups takes a lot off your shoulders. These are groups like the rotary club, business associations, and churches.

Website platform

A community is itself a platform – it provides a communication infrastructure, trust between people, and a number of other resources that are necessary conditions for further efforts. A website that serves a community won’t serve it properly unless it also acts as a platform. Like this blueprint, the website should have a constellation of capabilities, each of which can be used in many ways. This way the website creators won’t have to envision everything beforehand; users can create new functions out of the website.

The website should have at least the following capabilities:

  • A wiki
  • Profiles
  • A mapping function
  • Rating system
  • Events

Each of these capabilities should be very versatile. Imagine this scenario:

You, Jody Q. Public, decide to create an arm of this website for your community. The website already exists, so you just create a new profile for your community. You name it Mill Valley, the name of the cute little town you call home.

The first thing you do is create a profile page for yourself. You notice that when you follow the link to create a profile, you have several options – you can create a profile for yourself (an individual), your neighborhood, or even the city itself. At the bottom of this list of options is a “Create new category” link. Hmm, that’s interesting, you think. You’ll have to come back to that later, and use it to create a profile just for your own block, since you know most of the people on it.

After creating your profile, you head to the wiki portion of the website. You’ve always thought that it would be nice to have some restaurant reviews up, so you create pages for a few of your favorite restaurants, and review them favorably. Because it’s a wiki, other people can add their own reviews later, and review some restaurants you haven’t tried out yet.

All this thinking about food has made you hungry, so you grab a snack as you continue to familiarize yourself with the website. You notice that it has a Rating feature. Ratings for what?, you wonder. As you read the explanation, you realize that the rating system can be applied in many different ways. You can choose what is to be rated, who has permission to rate, and how the ratings will be displayed. You set up a rating system for restaurants. You rate the restaurants for which you created pages, and find that you can attach those ratings to their pages. You also rate a few more restaurants you don’t like as much. When someone creates pages for them later, the ratings can be connected to the pages; until then, someone can see the ratings for these restaurants by visiting the Ratings part of the site.

You guess (correctly) that the map function works similarly – it is flexible, and can be applied to different parts of the site in different ways. You attach the map to the restaurant profile pages you created, and notice that the community map now shows these restaurants as thumbtacks. You attach the map to your own profile, as well.

Soon you find that the website functions can interact in other interesting ways, as well. You can make your own profile a member of other, higher-level profiles, such as a city block or neighborhood profile. Your city block profile can also be made a member of your neighborhood’s profile. You can create groups that contain different types of profiles. You can create events. You can even create and add widgets from other sites. This website has everything you need, and you already feel as if the world is a better place.

Okay, maybe that last sentence is wishful thinking, but the website as outlined would be a powerful tool for the would-be community activist.

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