reverb10: discovering and creating community

December 7 – Community Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

I love this question because it allows me to, once again, reflect on how lucky I am to have wonderful people in my life.

I researched community identity for chapters of my dissertation and one of the things I discovered was all the various ways we define community: through geography, proximity, social circles, taste in music or books or films. It seems that in all the interviews and books and stories one thing was constant: community is about belonging and with that belonging comes a sense of support, of people who "get you" typically because of something you have in common.

I have been really lucky this year to be part of some great communities in online spaces including all of the visitors to my blog, faithful readers and women who inspire me like Lindsey, and Dian. The most significant sense of community I felt this year happened recently as part of the e-course The Declaration of You, which, by the way, is still offering spaces for the Jan. session and if you click on the image of the 'dude' in the chair on the sidebar (that's Pierre) to sign up I get credit for sending you to the course.

I signed up for the e-course kind of on a whim because I was intrigued by Pierre, and by both of the women (Jessica Swift and Michelle Ward) running the course. I cannot remember how I stumbled onto either of their blogs, but I am so glad I did. I wasn't sure what to expect from the course. And although I'm not an artist or crafter, the core of The Declaration of YOU, finding your way to your dream, or a way back to yourself or any number of other reasons you would want to "find your declaration and shout it from the rooftops" appealed to me. I've struggled since finishing graduate school to feel the same kind of passion and drive that used to motivate me. The e-course was a way to take ownership of that struggle and stop holding myself back.

I wrote about the e-course some, responding to a few prompts in this space but I mostly participated on the e-course forums and right away, the community bond was amazing. I felt instantly supported and comfortable, which is important because I also felt challenged and pushed in ways that elicited some pretty personal and intense responses. In order for the e-course to work, I had to let down any barrier I would normally use to protect myself; I had to be open and vulnerable and honest. I had to trust people I did not know with myself. Each day, I was overwhelmed with the kindness and encouragement from the group. We've continued to share with one another via our blogs and a Facebook group. I can't say enough about how much I appreciated learning from others, reading their responses and words of encouragement.

As I am about to embark on developing an online composition course (I'm piloting the project) for my university, I keep thinking about the importance of belonging and how to lay structures in place to help facilitate conversation and support. I certainly want to develop community in the classes I teach but I would also like to more deeply connect with colleagues in the department and with my friends out in the world.