Social Design for mission and ministry (3): utilise community

According to the guidelines at Facebook Developers, the first imperative of good social design — which, of course, works from the outside in — is to utilise community. In the virtual world this means:

  • Personalising your content for the people engaging with your product or service — so that it’s obviously relevant to them.
  • Connecting people with those of their friends who are already engaging with you — so they can see that people they know (or, taking a step down, people like them) trust and benefit from what you’re offering.
  • Highlighting social context — ie. the real names, faces, and stories/testimonies — since “associating content to people that users care about naturally draws them in”.
  • And working on being teflon-coated in how you gain, handle and use any information people share with you.

Basically, it’s about starting where people already are and helping them ground whatever you’re offering them in their existing relationships and experiences. Rather than asking them to put blind faith in you and then taking control, you continually give them social “proof” and put them in the position of power.

My sense is that where this leaves those of us wanting to apply social design principles to Christian mission and ministry is at the intersection of a three trajectories:

  1. Tim Keller’s helpful approach to missional community in terms of a primarily affirming and appreciative relationship (within which there is scope for criticism — although this shouldn’t be the first foot we put forward) to the existing culture of the neighbourhood, workplace, community, etc.
  2. An emphasis on building bridges of love and relationship so we can welcome people into the distinctive community we’ve discovered in Christ as well as maintaining a faithful presence within our wider community context.
  3. A properly Christian practice of leadership and power that follows the grain of an Asset Based Community Development-type approach.

More on what this might look like in practice next post.

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