On our journey to help people build more meaningful communities, I have been thinking a lot about the following hypothesis and I’d be so grateful for any thoughts, feedback and inputs. This is total work-in-progress and you’ll see that there are still many gaps in the thinking. But gotta start somewhere, right? 🙂

I call the tentative model “From Me to We” and it is based on personal observations that in powerful communities members go through a personal transformationTheir identity and their behavior shifts.

Everyone enters a new group with a pure personal identity, the Me identity, curious to find out more about the group. But then, in some communities, the Me behavior doesn’t go away, but it transforms over time into a We behavior. On the flip side, in dysfunctional communities the We identity never manifests, it stays a group of people with self-focused identities and behavior.

And — while people are still the same people in both cases — members showing up with their Me behavior make a very, very different group than people showing up with their We behavior.

Here are the qualities that I observe in the two different ways of showing up:

Me behavior

  • I show up as a consumer: what’s in it for me?
  • I show up feeling entitled: I’m expecting to be served.
  • I ignore conflicts or walk away from the group the moment they occur.
  • Reciprocity: I’m open to helping people, but I expect something in return.
  • I show up with my best self: I tell my strongest stories, I pitch people on my projects, I only show the sunny part of my being.
  • I assume that the group’s norms are the same as society’s norms. So I will act in the group just as I act otherwise.
  • I will only trust the people I build personal relationships with — why should I trust anyone else?
  • I come into the group with my guard up — you never know what other people’s incentives are.

We behavior

  • I see myself as a co-creator of this group. I know that unless I do something, nothing will happen. This is our group and I feel it belongs to me as well, in a small part.
  • While I’m not expecting anything from other people, I feel empowered to bring up my own ideas within the group and act on them.
  • I see conflicts within the group as natural and healthy. When they do arise, I proactively try to address them.
  • I help people in this group, because I love this group and because I feel so connected to the people in it. I help because I want to and I don’t expect something in return.
  • I show up in the group with my whole self, the good and the bad. I feel safe here and I’m willing to be vulnerable, because I assume that the group will support me in those moments.
  • This group has different values than society overall, and I try to live these values actively when I’m with people of the group. These strong values are a big reason why I care about this group.
  • Because I have built trust into the overall group, I have started to trust people in this group even when I have never met them before, because we share the same values, the same experiences.
  • I feel safe in this group and I feel that here I can be the person who I truly am.

This leaves me with two big questions:

  • Is this actually an applicable model? Can we actually observe these qualities in powerful / dysfunctional communities?
  • If yes, what factors help to shift from Me to We?

Curious and grateful for any thoughts and feedback you might have! Thank you in advance!