These three thoughts, theses if you will, are the basis of the "community motive."

July 30, 2013

Dear Reader: 
Based on my experience as a regional planner and agency director, 1973 -2008, and in recognition of emerging "regional communities," I developed three thoughts about community that relate to the challenge of working across-boundaries as greater or regional communities. The thoughts/theses apply for communities at the scale of bonding or bridging social capital as defined by Robert D. Putnam, which is alternately local or regional. (Link below)
As of 2011, considering the global financial crisis brought about by pursuit of the "profit motive," it struck me that this has come to dominate modern life. This is a relatively new invention of civilization and wasn't a concern for most of the time that Homo sapiens has been on the planet.
The three thoughts below that had emerged in my experience of working on regional cooperation now represent what I now posit as the "community motive." Concern about “profit" can emerge within an established community over time, but, to my mind the "profit motive" does not exist in the wild.
1) Community precedes cooperation.
2) Community is how life solves all problems.
3) Security is the primary purpose of community.
These three thoughts, theses if you will, are the basis of the "community motive. “Following is some exposition about each one.
As I see it, security has always been the priority for humans since the plains of Africa. That's why communities first seek to establish defensible boundaries. After the basics are in place, security focus shifts to the social and economic. Boundaries work like the membrane in the osmosis experiment most of us have seen in a science class. The membrane is a filter that lets the good things pass through, but keeps unwanted things out. (Osmosis -YouTube - 45 sec.)
The evolved political boundaries of today have consequence. The rules change when you cross them. Though marked on the ground and fortified in some instances, they are conceptual, as pictured to the right, with Universe Man and here in a PDF. The boundary divides the space between local, that within, and regional, everything outside, as labeled in the second panel. The third panel repeats the image within, to show, without graphic elegance, that the land on which Universe Man sits is regional at another scale, as determined by other boundaries, and another area that's local. A territory is both local and regional, depending upon the perspective.
Communities of communities, “regional communities” are greater communities organized to solve a problem, be it managing a watershed, strengthening an economic cluster or ensuring peer competition for school sports. Regional boundaries can be imposed for administrative purposes within states, but for these to be a basis for effective cooperation; a greater community sense is needed for that geography among the people. This is true for multi-state and multi-national regional communities as well. The leaders with such a vision can build a regional community by finding that which is already in place.
This is not to suggest that community is easy to build in order to solve problems. In a crisis, humans of any culture, belief or politics can quickly come together and self-organize to save themselves and others. It was the on-the- ground response to the 9/11 attacks that demonstrated to me the deep responsiveness of human community, as well as the fundamental importance of security. Community is how humans have always survived. This, I think, extends to all life forms.
The "community motive" comes into play when there is a problem to be solved. In a monetized civilization, the "profit motive" may be an incentive for some action, but most of the problems of life don't have a check at the end for their solution. They are things that must be done. Because this is the case, humanity has been able to perpetuate. To solve problems then, regional/greater community motivation activates in one or more individuals.
We must thank Aldo Leopold for the term. He wrote:  “Acts of conservation without the requisite desire and skills are futile. To create these desires and skills and the community motive is the task of education.” —"Conservation: In Whole or in Part? (1944); RMG 319
The concept of “community motive” did not take hold, but it should have. It is now more important than ever, since the “profit motive” requires regional/greater community management at wholistic scales.
Thoughts welcome.


Regional/Greater Community Motivation - News & Thought is presented here: Community Motive –Collaboration – Cooperation Tweets and in the Flipboard magazine “Community Motive –Greater/Regional Communities” 

To learn about bridging and bonding social capital, read Robert Putnam here Bowling Alone: the collapse and revival of American community
My first blog post here about the focus on community motive

Tom Christoffel, AICP, FeRSA
Regional Intelligence - Regional Communities, LLC
Box1444 * Front Royal, Virginia, USA (VA 22630)

"Acknowledge boundaries. Work across them. Think local planet, act regionally."