What London 2012 taught us about creating a sense of community
There are many memories that those of us who experienced London 2012 will take from this year and many of these will be very personal. But perhaps an overriding feeling across all these will be the sense of community that pervaded the events and indeed the city of London during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On a personal level, the first sign of this community was early in the morning the day before the Games began. The Olympic Torch was passing outside my house and I stumbled outside to find that the usually busy main road was eerily quiet, and that slowly – alone or in small groups – the road was filling with hundreds and hundreds of people. We stood there, waiting, together, and after the torch procession had passed we quickly dispersed. But this time we weren’t in the small groups we arrived but chatting to people around us and sharing our excitement.
It was clear from this brief moment that the coming weeks would be rather special and would create a real feeling of community across London.
Much is said about community – both online and offline – but the truth is achieving a real community can be hard. How can you build a community among disparate residents in a street in London, or indeed between consumers online? The truth is often that attempts to do so fail to live up to expectations.
And the truth is that communities can be very simple to catalyse – you just need a true shared interest, passion or concern that people can mobilise themselves round. And this is why London 2012 left Londoners with that sense of community. Either from the feeling that deep down we all feared it things might not go to plan, and yet they did – we shared our fears and our delight. Or from a desire for a TeamGB victory that you shared with the people sitting near you as you watched – or indeed with 80,000 other people on some nights in the stadium. Or indeed from a new or rekindled interest in different sports and activities.
For a few weeks this summer, London became hyper-connected with people sharing passions and interests with others that they knew and that they would get to know. A real sense of community thrived.
So when you are thinking about building communities or mobilising people around an issue or cause you need to think about what can be learned from this. Find a powerful passion, issue or concern that people can share and the connections and sense of community can really grow.
The truth is that whilst this may seem simple, finding that true commonality is harder than you might think; and making sure you capitalise on any opportunities for community building is harder too.
Photo credit: mattlondon on Instagram