These are some of the books that have informed how I think of community, business and how they intersect. This is a running list and it’s already mis
sing some important ones. I plan to add to it regularly.
Love is defined by bell hooks as "the will to nurture one’s own or another’s spiritual growth, revealed through acts of care, respect, knowing, and assuming responsibility." I believe there is no better goal to have for a community, no matter your topic and purpose of gathering people. The book has a chapter specifically about community and the role it has on increasing love in our lives. "There is no better place to learn the art of loving than in community." At first I was uncomfortable with the word "love" used for some of the communities I've led or been a part of, which are mostly work-related. But after this book I fully came around to embracing the word and thinking of new ways I can incorporate it into my life and business. The takeaway I'm still digesting from this book is the idea that we can learn about love from community and in turn use that knowledge to better love ourselves. Once we can better practice that self-love, we become a better community member, creating a cycle that improves the individual and strengthens the community. My working definition of community comes directly from reading this book: a group of people interested in nurturing their own and one another's growth.
This book is a must-read, especially if you're just starting your community. It's about gatherings in general and most of the examples are about one-time events, not in the community context. Yet all of the principles I think apply even more if you're building a community that you want people to feel welcome in and come back to regularly. For example, the guidelines and prompts about establishing a clear purpose for your gathering, apply to establishing a purpose for your community. It helps you answer crucial questions like who's invited, and even more clarifying, who's NOT invited? If you're building a community, you'll likely be hosting events online or in person and the book is a masterclass on how to do that in a thoughtful way that reflects why you're doing it. Even the small tips like don't start with the logistics have helped me rethink my role as a host. Highly recommend the book and Priya Parker's podcast for great examples for how to implement the ideas.
One of the marks of a healthy community is conflict. The way to resolve or moderate heated debates is to build compassion. You do that by improving the way you communicate and modeling that behavior for the rest of your community. This book goes deep into a way of communicating that is vulnerable, honest and builds connection. Non-Violent Communication (NVC) has 4 steps: observation, feelings, needs and requests. Even if talking about feelings doesn’t seem like would be in line with your community's culture, this book is so helpful in understanding how others take in information, which will guide you in building a welcoming space. Communicating honestly makes it so that your community can use moments of conflict to go deeper instead of staying on the surface. This book will help you do that.
This has been an important book to me for 2 reasons. First, it made me better at asking questions. As a coach, Jerry is a master at cutting through and asking the right question at the right time. I often ask myself and clients his exact questions in hard or confusing moments. The other reason is that the book recognizes that building a business is personal and your traumas, family history and patterns will be reflected in the business you build. Being aware and processing them is crucial, especially if you're building a business that requires that you show up as yourself and hold space for others, like I believe true community does. I revisit this book every few months and always find something new to reflect on.