In every community, there is bound to be affiliations, friendships or cliques born out of common grounds. These common grounds could be as a result of similar ways of thinking, beliefs, ideologies, countries, cultures, goals, interests, hobbies or even the need to build friendships and collaborations.

So, no community is void of having smaller groups who share similar interests. Being in such groups or friendships make every member of each group feel accepted. We all have that need to feel accepted right? We all want to hang out with friends sometimes and just have fun with other people outside ourselves.

When such groups operate out of mutual respect, have good intentions for one another and maintain a healthy environment, it helps to promote the growth of that community. But when there is unhealthy competition and lack of mutual respect, such community becomes toxic. Sadly, when the environment becomes toxic, it defeats the purpose of that community.

We can see this in groups as small as our alumni communities, our class, churches, clubs, schools, work places, etc. In fact, this happens both online and offline. I belong to several groups on WhatsApp, and in each group exists smaller pockets of friends with similar interests who bond more with one another. You can call them factions or cliques. They would do all they can to first protect the interests of their friends in any discussion raised within that group. It is fine if it is healthy. But it can be dangerous when toxic. Like bacteria producing toxins that break down the cells or organs of the body, one day that community will shut down.

As members of the Atlas Corps community, how do you maintain the health of this community that you belong to?

1. Maintain mutual respect for every member of our community

This includes respect for people, their beliefs, preferences, perspectives and values, as well as respecting the boundaries that exist within your relationships.

2. Avoid unhealthy competition

The only person we should compete with is ourselves. This is one way to live free, make progress and preserve humanity.

3. Do not think evil of everyone

Ensure that your intentions and wishes for every member of the community is at least not evil. It doesn’t matter how different others are from you. It doesn’t matter how bad they may appear. It doesn’t matter how unfriendly they may be. What matters is the state of your heart. It is more about you than them. Think the best of everyone.

4. Operationalise your core values

Atlas Corps like every other organisation operates by certain core values, it is very important that we keep to them. Core values help to align everyone to the purpose and goals of that community. We can only unite and last long, when we live by similar values. Let’s make these value a lifestyle. Let’s work to make it an integral part of our existence as a community.

As founders or leaders of communities/movements/organizations, what do you do to ensure a healthy community?

1. Do all you can to maintain peace and justice

The moment you lose peace in your community, it will be difficult to enforce justice. Peace is the foundation for justice to be established, because peace is superior to justice. Do all you can to maintain both.

2. Model your values

There is no better way to influence your followers other than being a great example. Live your core values and create a community culture that has your core values written all over it.

3. Celebrate the differences and diversities that everyone brings to the table

Create an inclusive and judgement free environment that encourages everyone to have a voice, express it and own it. Appreciate the value that these differences add to your community, see the diversities as strength and harmonize them to constructively achieve your community goals.

4. Operate a fair environment

There is a tendency to prefer a super talented member of your community, or someone who adds more value to the team. That’s fine, but make sure it doesn’t make you a biased leader. When there are opportunities that are due to everyone, make sure you are fair in the distribution of those opportunities. The best way to handle this is by making sure opportunities are given by merits and not by personal preferences. Set up systems that dissolve nepotism, personal biases or individual preferences.

There will also be situations where community members will have misunderstandings or express behaviours that are against the stipulated rules guiding the community. Resolving this from a systems approach enforces fairness and justice. There should be already existing standard operating procedures for handling issues and taking disciplinary actions. Let these documents guide the process of instituting corrective measures. That way, it is objective and void of human error. Let the systems you build encourage equity, justice and fairness.

Unity of purpose and genuine love among community members are for me the two most important ingredients in building a healthy, relevant and impact-making community. Every other good thing is possible when these two pillars are in place. Every leader must work hard to establish both.

Finally, as a relationship coach and social impact leader who has and is still leading communities, tribes and movements, this is my one penny. There are so many other ways to build healthy communities. You can drop your one penny in the comment sections so we can all learn more.