About a month ago a friend of mine experienced the tragedy of losing a child. As toddlers occasionally do, her two-year-old son figured out how to get out of his car seat while the family was driving to church, and he fell out of the car. The accident took his life. No parent should ever have to bury their child, and nobody should ever have to suffer this kind of pain alone. Fortunately, our little community surrounded my friend’s family with love. Almost within minutes, hundreds of people learned about the tragedy via social media. By rallying through gofundme, the community provided overwhelming financial support (in the form of voluntary donations) to more than cover the unexpected funeral costs. People shared uplifting notes, provided meals and flowers, and ultimately turned a disaster into a powerful symbol of what the word “community” is all about.
For me, the word “community” means a group of people that know and care for each other. Community is more than just the place where you live, but it surrounds and involves every individual that happens to live there, regardless of their situation. Community means participation (since we only really care about the things in which we invest our time and energy). Community means that people are aware of what is happening around them. Community is a group of people that cry with those that are having a rough time, and is made of people that have fun and laugh with each other whenever they have the opportunity. Community is a place where you want to stay.
When I first started working in the multifamily housing industry a few years back, I made a mental note that people are adamant about using the word “community” instead of other phrases like “property” or “apartment complex.” It makes sense, too! I bet that these people I talked with have the same definition of “community” that I do, and there’s probably a powerful story behind it! I also know that these same people have planned out at least a part of the desired “Resident Experience” (RX) for their community, and they do everything they can to make every person that visits experience it. These industry experts know that if someone feels good about the place where they live, they’re more likely to contribute to the overall community, and they’re going to stick around.
One cool thing is that the same software that allows our residents to pay rent in their pajamas can also make it possible for residents to get to know and interact with their community. Imagine if you used these tools to help develop that sense of community where you are. Here are a few Ideas I’ve seen used throughout our industry:
- Providing a community “classifieds” interface
- Providing interfaces for tenant-created clubs and activities
- Encouraging residents to help a local charity reach a specific goal
- Mass-emailing community newsletters
Has your company already defined what “community” means to you? How have you developed a sense of community in your communities? What types of activities or approaches have worked for you? Do you know of people that have been affected in a positive way? We’d love to hear about your experiences!