How to build a community? Give the people the power, says Common coliving - Brooklyn


Mar. 23, 2016 9:37 am

How to build a community? Give the people the power, says Common coliving

Common grows up and loosens up.

Common's new digs.

(Courtesy photo)

Picture the most famous anarchist trope there is: the college green where there’s a dirt path that’s been worn away by students taking a shortcut around the sidewalks that the university planned and built for walking on. Sometimes the people who use systems know better what they need (user experience) than the people that design those systems (user interface). Here’s one of those tired UX vs. UI images:

UX vs. UI: the path.

Coliving company Common’s founder, Brad Hargreaves, wrote a post yesterday on the five things he’s learned since opening the first coliving facility in Crown Heights last October.

“When we opened our first Common home, we wanted to set the right tone of an active, participatory community, so we organized weekly potluck dinners and regular Common member outings to gatherings like Daybreaker,” he said. “While our members enjoyed getting to know their neighbors at these planned events, they also had their own ideas of what they’d like to do as a community. One member wanted to organize a book club for the building. Another wanted to host a movie series.”


Hargreaves is one of the more thoughtful founders I’ve met. When we talked at the Brooklyn Innovation Awards he told me about the book he was reading on communities and the importance of getting people to buy into them: you can’t force friendship. And he listens. He said his members have a lot of ideas on their own.

“To be fully supportive of all these ideas, we needed to step back into the role of a facilitator — connecting members and supplying a modest budget for member-run events — rather than organizing everything ourselves,” he wrote

And although Common offers low-friction living, with furnished rooms and month-to-month agreements, they loosened up on decorating as well.

“Going forward, we’re still going to do the heavy lifting,” like beds and furniture, he explained. But, “ the art, the knick-knacks, the coasters — should be the members’ choice, not ours. That’s the fun stuff, and we’ve learned we should leave it to our members.”

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