The Importance of Building a Community

Like almost all Western states, Utah is constantly being embattled by fights over land use, and how to manage the vast open spaces that these states boast. These fights bring in many different players: environmentalists, sportsmen, off-road vehicle users, non-motorized recreationists, equestrians, ranchers, developers and oil/gas developers. Historically, these fights have been like one of the old WWF super-fights with twenty people in the ring. Normally, the most powerful people, with the most money, would end up winning. This led to developments and mineral-rights leases being consistently issued on land that was at one time protected.

A few years ago, I was doing some work for a Congressman, who along with a Senator and some State representatives wanted to change the way these fights took place. Together, they rounded up environmentalists, ranchers and recreational use groups. What these groups found, was that even though they disagreed with how they thought the land should be used, the one thing they all agreed on is that they wanted the land to stay undeveloped. These meetings were great to witness, because it was a classic case of  groups coming together in order to advance a common goal.

In the end, it was simple really. All that these politicians had to do was get these groups in the same room as each other, and ask them, “what is it that we all want.” Sure, later on these groups will be debating grazing rights and whether or not you can ride a mountain bike on the trails, but at the end of the day, their interests are best served by the land not getting turned into a strip mine (or a strip mall, for that matter).

So where’s the lesson? Beyond being just a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” story, this is a great example of building a community. Because what else is a community if not a group of seemingly separate people who join together around a common interest. In some communities, they will organize around location. In others, a common interest. Sometimes a brand creates a community (like Threadless). Your college campus is its own community, organized around your school. There are also micro-communities within your campus as well.

If you’re an NSCS officer planning I Stand for Integrity Day, what seemingly unrelated groups may want to participate? How about on campus political groups? I bet the College Democrats, College Republicans and/or the student government groups would love to be seen promoting academic integrity. Do you have a philosophy club? Maybe they would hold an ethics debate. Here’s one that may seem weird. What about the golf team? Golf is a sport that is based on a player’s own personal integrity. No other sport has their professionals call fouls on themselves. Could be an interesting discussion to have.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to finding something you care about, then bringing other people together that want the same thing. Do you have to agree 100%? No, but you can find the compromises to get you closer.

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