As personal and corporate "giving" continues to grow, 1999 was another record year for philanthropy. That breakthrough gives me cause to consider entrepreneurs' role in the future of community. Business has always had a role in community building, but it'll be both different and more important in the future.
As we should expect, the post-industrial society defines community differently. For example, there's clearly less, if any, geographic constraint. Communities of interest are being created-and dissolved-every hour of every day on the Net. Smart companies recognize that the people who post messages of dissatisfaction are parts of the community every bit as much as the satisfied customers. These people should not be shut up as they were in the Industrial Age but rather celebrated for their contributions to our improvement. Community has never felt as exclusionary as it does now.
Think of it this way: What do Bill Gates and Larry Ellison have in common (besides being the two richest people in America and not necessarily liking each other)? They both saved Apple Computer. Community today has a tribal feel to it-or, as I like to call it, a "neo-tribalness." Community is a participatory sport. You have to be in it. You can't just say "Where's my community?" You must engage. More than ever, community needs business insights, efficiency and passion.
And finally, remember that community only happens when people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. As such, community must include personal sacrifice. This is a good time to reconsider what communities you're in . . . and how you want to participate in them.
Author Watts Wacker-lecturer, bestselling writer, political commentator, social critic and CEO of FirstMatter-is one of the world's most respected futurists.