Intrinsically I think we understand the value a community can bring to its own members. Can certain communities also create value to the greater region in which they reside?
Here in Austin, Texas, the Door64 community creates value for its members. However, while growing this community, I realized it also substantially benefits our city and state from an economic development perspective. Economic development is often concerned with employment, local retention, and entrepreneurial growth; the Door64 community happens to address all three:
Employment: Networking is arguably one of the best methods to navigate ones career, and even gain some semblance of security in uncertain times. Communities naturally help people of like background or interest congregate, and in the case of Door64, we attract professionals of similar high-tech expertise & employment backgrounds. Providing opportunities for networking within the community allows predictably unpredictable introductions and interactions to occur, yielding new career opportunities for engaged members.
Local Retention: When individuals are isolated or without connections in the geographic area where they reside, they may feel unattached to it. However, as members of a community interact with other members, personal connections are developed. In the Door64 community, because we are focused on Central Texas, the vast majority of our membership is geographically concentrated. Most online connections fostered are local, and thus over time growing the network enables members to feel more tied to our area. When considering relocation, realizing there is a professional network to be left behind is a compelling reason to stay.
Entrepreneurial Growth: Since communities often bring together people of like backgrounds, interests, or expertise, there is potential for organic collaboration. Moreover, when a community possesses a significant local presence, there is greater likelihood that members will meet in person and talk shop about their common interests and ideas. This kind of interaction is conducive to entrepreneurship. With the Door64 community, in the past couple months I observed a group of technology professionals form spontaneously who were (a) unemployed, and (b) interested in doing something productive while not hitting the job search. Nicknamed the "Door64 Start-up Gang", they decided to see how their various talents could be used together to create a product or service and generate some income.
As a community leader, understanding this value external to the community allows you to position it to make a greater impact where the members reside. Within geographic regions, encouraging and fostering communities that aggregate people of similar backgrounds (especially from an employment perspective) can uniquely and creatively address local economic development initiatives.