Home The Science Of Community

The Science Of Community

user profile picture Adam Taggart May 04, 2018
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The Peak Prosperity tribe is gathering.

Members from all over the country (including a few from Europe and Asia) are arriving in northern California today for our annual weekend seminar.

Chris and I are really looking forward to this. We're introducing a host of upgrades this year: a better location, a better venue, new content and exercises, and guest appearances by many of the experts who appear on (including Charles Hugh Smith, Richard Heinberg, Axel Merk, Wolf Richter, David Pare, Mark Rees, the New Harbor team, the folks from Farmland LP, as well as several others).

But as anyone who has attended one of our past seminars (or city Summits) knows, it's the PP members themselves who are the heart of the experience. Having so many like-minded folks in one place at the same time is a refreshing and energizing rarity.

The community that has developed here at Peak Prosperity is truly special. It attracts members who are smart, curious, open-minded, open-hearted — and share a drive to create a better future for themselves, their loved ones, and the world around them.

Of all the elements of the movement Chris and I have worked hard to build over the years, connecting such amazing individuals together into this community is our proudest achievement. Given our mission of "Creating a World Worth Inheriting", we know that the path to success depends on the collective action of many than on the efforts of just we two.

Which is why we take community-building so seriously.

As we write about often, Social Capital is very important for each of us to build in order to live a resilient life. And whether you're building it on an individual level in your local neighborhood, or on a global scale as does, there are several science-based factors that are key to success.

Chris and I keep these success factors at the forefront of our efforts to grow and nurture our community. You may want to, too, in order to improve the efficacy of your own social outreach.

The Science Of Community

In 1986, social psychologists David McMillan and David Chavis published a study into the drivers of what they termed the "sense of community". Their research addressed the questions: Why do communities exist? And why do people participate in them?

After all, all throughout human existence, people have banded together (initially in small tribal groups). They haven't done so randomly or for no reason. What benefits are members of a community receiving that compel them to participate?

McMillan & Chavis summarized their core conclusion thusly:

Sense of community is a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together (McMillan, 1976).

And they identified four success factors that are critical to creating this 'sense of community'. By applying these to your social endeavors, you'll increase the health and strength of the communities you participate in.

These factors are:

1. Membership

Membership is the feeling of belonging or of sharing a sense of personal relatedness.

It includes five attributes:

  1. Boundaries – How do people become members and what are the boundaries keeping others out
  2. Emotional safety – By building boundaries and including the right people, you create trust and a feeling of safety
  3. A sense of belonging and identification – Members must feel like they fit in and that this is “their community”
  4. Personal investment – If members contribute or make sacrifices to the community, it enhances their sense of community
  5. A common symbol system – Sharing a symbol like a sports team jersey or gang colors creates a sense of community

So it’s important to not just invite anyone and everyone to your community. Think about what you want your community to be about and who would make your community better. Make sure that anyone who joins is going to be a good fit.

By setting boundaries to getting into a community, you make members feel special and create a higher level of trust.

Then think about what else you can do to make users proud to be a member using things like symbols. Think power user programs, logos and branding.

2. Influence

The second element is influence, or a sense of mattering. It has to work both ways, with members feeling like they have influence over the community and the community having influence over the members.

Influence also speaks to the concept of giving first before asking for anything. The theory states that:

“People who acknowledge that others’ needs, values, and opinions matter to them are often the most influential group members, while those who always push to influence, try to dominate others, and ignore the wishes and opinions of others are often the least powerful members.”

Create an environment in your community where members feel like they have a say in what happens.

Each member should know that someone is listening, no matter what, even if it’s just the community manager.

And for a community to have influence over its members, it simply has to become a place that they care about. It has to provide them with value that they don’t want to lose.

3. Integration and Fulfillment of Needs

This essentially means that by joining a community a member gets what they hoped to get by joining.

It reinforces the idea that your community, like any other product, needs to solve a problem for its members in order to make it worth their time and contribution.

A reward might be something specific like an answer to a question or networking. Or it could be something a bit more intangible like a sense of belonging, a support network, thoughtful conversations, inspiration, etc.

Members need to feel rewarded in some way for their participation in the community in order to continue to contribute.

This is why it’s really important to talk to your users and get a really good idea of who they are. Then you can understand their needs and how the community can best serve them.

4. Shared Emotional Connection

All healthy communities have a story.  Members will have a history of experiences together and the belief that there will be more experiences together in the future.

McMillan & Chavis provide an example:

“This is the feeling one sees in farmers’ faces as they talk about their home place, their land, and their families; it is the sense of family that Jews feel when they read The Source by James Michener (1965).”

These experiences form a long lasting, emotion connection. That’s why a community that goes through a crises often comes out much stronger because they’ve now shared a difficult situation, forging a strong emotional bond amongst members.

This factor is believed to be the “definitive element for true community”.

What kinds of experiences can you manufacture for the members of your community? Events? Something unique that they won’t forget? Maybe it’s just a good, honest debate where people get heated but end up stronger afterward.


The Tribe Gathers

Those attending our sold-out annual seminar this weekend in Sebastopol, CA will receive a healthy dose of each of the above factors — particularly with #4, shared long-lasting emotional connection. In-person, multi-day gatherings are one of the best vehicles for delivering this.

But don't feel too left out if you're not attending the seminar. There are a number of ways to still participate as part of the tribe.

Share Your Voice

A simple way to do so is to contribute your voice to any of the discussions on this website. The current threads on America's prescription drug problem and declining empire are especially active right now. Or start a discussion on a topic of particular passion to you in our Forums.


As the science above shows, another way to feel more connected as a community is through a common symbol system. Got your Peak Prosperity gear yet?


We created these shirts and hats to help us to signal and celebrate our membership in the PP tribe.

Plus, through the inevitable "What do you mean by Creating A World Worth Inheriting"? queries you'll get while wearing them provide an excellent opportunity to open new minds to the Three Es and to the wisdom of developing a resilient life today.

To get your own PP gear, click here.

Join Us For A Live Event

We limit the size of our annual seminar audience in order to keep the gathering small enough that Chris and I can interact personally with every attendee.

As that prevents a lot of folks from being able to attend, we introduced our city Summits this year.

Each Summit is an intimate 6-hour discussion, primarily focusing on our forecasts for the Economy and the financial markets, with special emphasis on the biggest threats that could trigger a major correction, as well as the key indicators Chris and I are watching most closely. Detailed updates on the Energy & Environment sides of the story are also provided.

But it's not a 1-way presentation. The Summit is intentionally formatted to be a fluid conversation, where participants can guide the discussion in whatever direction they care about most. Every Summit is unique in that the material is customized in real-time to the specific personal needs of the audience members.

Our next Summits are taking place in the Central US cities of Denver CO & Austin TX (May 19 & 20) and Columbus OH & Chicago IL (June 2 & 3). If you live in travel distance of one of these, please come join us.

Share The Message

By now, we're assuming most of you have read Prosper!, our book focusing on the solution steps each of us can take in our lives to live with greater resilience and prosperity.

Well, we've just released a second edition of the book. One that delivers the material a little more crisply and is perfect for introducing new minds to the coming challenges of the Three Es and the path to dealing with them with grace.

We're making a direct ask of the PP tribe to share this updated edition with the important people in their lives who can benefit from its guidance. Which of your parents, sibling, children, friends, neighbors and co-workers would this book help?

The second edition of Prosper! can be purchased on Amazon for $14.95 (Kindle version $9.99). And for those wishing to purchase multiple books, contact us here to receive the following price discounts (paperback version):

  • 2-9 copies: $12.95/ea
  • 10-24 copies: $7.95/ea
  • 25-99 copies: $6.45/ea
  • 100+: $4.95/ea

Now, Off To The Seminar…

OK, the 2018 annual seminar is starting now. Time for me to log off and join Chris and everyone who has traveled here.

We'll be encouraging attendees to share their thoughts, photos and experiences at the seminar this weekend. Monitor our twitter and Facebook feeds to get a window into the insights and action.

Chris and I will be posting our own recaps of the event next week. Until then, good luck in your community-building efforts. We hope to see you in person soon!