Who's Community?

Within a local community, there is an incredible amount of value produced by people building trustful relationships with each other. The intrinsic authenticity of these relationships gives them unique value that people gravitate towards because they are real. In a  world of marketing where localized branding is the golden goose, many companies set their eye on these local relationships as value that can be extracted for their growth, rather than that of the community. It is important to point out that the work we do is non-extractive: we don’t take value from a community, call it our own and resell it; we recognize that value where it belongs, and then we help develop it and add resources to it, strengthening the community fabric as a whole.

The extractive, transactional approach has led to a dysfunctional relationship between capitalism and community, and its effects have been detrimental. The more community value that is extracted for company growth, the less power and agency the community has. In the worst scenarios, the company will eventually speak for a community that never asked it to. And, the company becomes a barrier preventing the community’s further growth.

One of the greatest examples of this happening in our daily lives, is with the social media empire of Facebook. Even though it is an internet community, the process happens the same way it does with an organic community: people use Facebook autonomously to form networks and share things we find meaning in, then Facebook's algorithm packages it and sells it back to us in the form of advertisements, blank and blank. We see it with agriculture conglomerates like Cargill who dominate the supply chains of their producers. No matter much they showcase food producers or talk about sustainability, the fact remains that they are maintaining a relationship of dominance and control over communities. The community regaining its own autonomy is an inherent threat to Cargill’s basic operation.

So give how do we actively refrain from appropriating community? We simply can’t enter the situation assuming that we are the ones with the power and that the community is better off listening to our ideas, it has to be the opposite: We assume that the community has immense, precious power and the best thing we can do is listen to the people in that community so we can help strengthen and protect it.  

 

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