Also known as innovation communities, communities of innovation are individuals who come together with the express purpose of pursuing a specific goal by combining their gifts and talents as a means of achieving the desired end. In many instances, these individuals are volunteers who feel strongly enough about the goal to donate time and talent to the effort. This type of community may arise in a number of settings, such as a local neighborhood, within a faith tradition, or even in a workplace.
In any setting, communities of innovation are all about creating an environment that allows each participant to feel secure and safe while contributing to the pursuit of the common goal. The idea is that by removing any type of barriers that would otherwise inhibit the free sharing of ideas and sparking inspiration from the collective knowledge and experience of those involved with the community, fresh understandings that lead to new and innovative ways of doing things will emerge. For this reason, the structure of a community may be somewhat fluid, allowing community members to take on different roles as the movement toward the goal progresses.
The concept of communities of innovation can be applied in a number of different scenarios. Neighborhoods may utilize this approach to draw upon the collective wisdom and experience of residents in order to deal with some type of issue that affects the community. Houses of worship may come together to find new and innovative ways to address issues that affect a number of people living in the area, such as unemployment, homelessness, or use of illegal drugs. Even businesses can make use of communities of innovation, providing the means for interested employees to pool their abilities in order to address an issue that faces the company and will ultimately affect everyone connected with the business.
While the nature of communities of innovation strive to create a safe environment in which ideas are freely shared, there is often some type of basic structure that helps to keep the communities moving forward in some manner. Facilitators will often be included in the structure, focusing on keeping the lines of communication open between all participants and mediating when some sort of negative activity threatens to slow the group’s momentum. Since one of the hallmarks of communities of innovation is that participants have a vested interest in the welfare of others within the group, at least in terms of that welfare relating to the accomplishment of their common goal, mutual respect and consideration are very important to group function. As long as that respect and consideration is present, participants are more likely to be open about ideas and thoughts rather than feeling intimidated and possibly holding back something that would ultimately be of benefit to everyone involved.