Bainbridge Island Community Network

Marina District
Marina District

The Secret Formulas of Community

When I started a community Internet site in 1992 I had this idea that a community is a living organism and like all Homo sapiens communities it’s made up of individuals of all shapes, sizes, colors, affiliations, religions, etc. The goal was to create a virtual likeness of such a community that would work for all communities the world over. I also realized that what worked on Bainbridge Island would not work for a small town in China.

So my journey began. I started defining all the elements of a community I could find and think of. Then I created a structure to plug things into. This got a little cumbersome but worked (to a degree). This is what most other corporate web sites do that are calling themselves Bainbridge Island (and your community) with places for information to be plugged into. This is what Microsoft tried with Sidewalk.

After I had developed my expanded list of pieces of a community I reached a point where I realized that I needed to shrink and simplify this mass. (After many years I counted over 2000 projects that I had generated that pertained to so many aspects or events in the community). It got too hard to maintain, especially with no funding. Plus, I had to do it as an html web site because blog software did not yet exist. But I knew that it was too important to walk away from (it was really social networking on a community scale) because it applied to all communities the world over and I knew that there was more to create.

At one point I had hoped that Bainbridge Island would become a world model. I had started early enough in the game and the collective knowledge of certain individuals (note I didn't say leadership here) on Bainbridge was more than adequate (which I did draw on to a degree). But like most communities, there are old established structures that exist to perpetuate themselves. If anything comes along and rises in stature, represents a value, power or a threat to the organism’s existence, it will rise from a slumber of status quo and move to kill whatever is new or absorb it into its body. Fright and flight in a slumbering behemoth is an interesting phenomenon.

This, too, I needed to take into consideration, and it didn't fit into a template. So I went back to my original thoughts of a living organism. I remembered a conference I had gone to in the mid-1980s in San Jose involving the National Science Foundation where I listened to presentations on all manner of science involved in "Man's Ability to Inhabit Mars." There was a prominent scientific thinker there whose claim to fame was Whole Systems Design, and he had been working on a model that defined an ameba by seven separate systems. I knew something about whole systems design and began to reflect on the nature of a community as if it were an ameba (a simple life form) created of systems.

Out of that thought process grew the realization that a template was not the path but a formula was. This became my holy grail ..."The Formula of Community" ... and that realization has been my guiding star for at least a decade. And now I share it with you: The Pizza Model of Community Structure

The secret formula for the
"unified community"

  • Start with a substantial crust in the shape of the geographic footprint of the desired community
  • Add 2 small ladles of Mandelbrot Set sauce - That's an underlying cultural formula that allows all the individual ingredients to be unique with a common root.
  • Pour on 2 cups of Chaos Theory - The main ingredients: It will be different for each community, but home grown and organic are preferred. Staples are: government, businesses, community groups, clubs and organizations with a few creative individuals thrown in for spice.
  • Sprinkle with 1 cup of String Cheese Theory - When the cheese melts it forms the connecting threads that bind all the individual ingredients together. It adds a third dimention to an otherwise two-dimensional community. It could be called an open communication infrastructure, something like a Virtual Community on the Internet available to all, equally.
    (Sounds something like the Net Neutrality issue...)
  • Finish with 1/2 cup of Dark Matter Sauce - This is the one ingredient that is the hardest to come by but makes all the difference in the quality of the community. It is made up of very exotic ingredients: knowledge, ethics, integrity, ethical leadership, compassion, volunteers, entrepreneurialism, supportive structures, mentors, loyalty, respect for intellectual property, people who help each other, and more.
  • Place in a preheated oven at 425 deg. F (If you use a convection oven cut the time by 1/3). Bake for 2 years (magic 2 years). Invite your friends. There is plenty for all and it is best consumed collectively while still hot.
To help fund this site we will be offering 16 oz. bottles of Dark Matter Sauce in the not-too-distant future.



The secret formula for the
"fragmented community"

(Notice that this formula is bigger and more cumbersome than the previous formula; and I can tell you from experience that it costs about 50 times more, 10 times as long to create and produces a lesser product. But the choice is yours.)
  • Start with a thin crust (patch the holes with spare dough) in the shape of the geographic footprint of the desired community.
  • Add 1 small ladle of tomato paste thinned with water - That's the underlying culture that allows all the individual ingredients to exist.
  • Beat in 2 cups of leftovers - The main ingredients: same old infrastructure that has been there forever. Throw in a few "good old boys/girls" that make up the local 'Mafia,' Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council, city government, and non-profit boards. Throw in a Walmart or two and a few staid individuals like bankers (for that musty flavor).
  • Sprinkle with 1 cup of Cheese - Velveeta/Jack-Mc - When the cheese melts it forms a goo that sticks everything together. It adds a whole new dimension, floats everything in grease, also known as sleaze (like a grants system where the same people who sit on the grant request review board also apply for the grants and then recommend funding their own, or their organization’s, grant request). This makes for the perfect two-dimensional community. It has a closed communication infrastructure dominated by big communications corporations that works closely with the local “Mafia.”
  • Finish with only 1 splash of Dark Matter Sauce (might as well not waste it) augmented by a packet of powdered chicken gravy and 1/8th cup of water (not too thick). These ingredients are easy to come by and make all the difference in the quality of the community. The combination of sleaze-grease and chicken gravy makes it easy for things to slide through City Hall and the back rooms and to grease necessary palms. It effectively smothers knowledge, ethics, integrity, ethical leadership, compassion, volunteers, and entrepreneurialism and creates disabling structures and people who climb the ladder on the backs of others. It also promotes loyalty to the unethical and spreads like a virus throughout the community. ("The Viral Nature of Unethical Leadership")
  • Place in a preheated oven set on "clean", then cremate that sucker. (If you have a convection oven don't bother). Bake for 16 years, check to see if the sleaze-cheese has melted. If not just keep cooking ‘til it's warm or until you’re tired of waiting. Think twice about inviting friends – you will probably want to keep it to your inner circle. You may want to set aside a few slices and freeze them in case some better ingredients come along some day and you may want to try again.

    Might be better served cold anyway.
The good news is: It still sort of works.
The question is: for whom.



A few years ago I ran into a City Council woman, Debbie Vann, who was fairly new to Bainbridge Island politics at the time. She had presided over a grant review committee approximately a month earlier that was about funding projects to promote tourism on Bainbridge. I had applied for a grant to develop some online itineraries of things to do when visitors come to the Island. My project fit the stated purposes of the grants program perfectly (I have since done it). My request had been rejected for a reason that was a real reach, and she was curious. I then informed her of some of the history of that grant and the conflicts of interest of those who sat on the review board. I could see this light bulb light up over her head, and she exclaimed, "That explains why they didn't want me to give you a reason for refusing your grant." (About a month later three of the four members of the grant review committee participated in a City-sponsored Round Table Discussion(FN:1) concerning tourism (the community Internet site was excluded from participating) and one of the ideas discussed that they thought valuable was, "develop online itineraries for people who wanted to visit Bainbridge Island" – my exact project. I'm used to it. This is just Bainbridge Island, this is who we are, and when you do it enough it creates a culture that permeates everything behind the scenes. They have it down to a science).

Now, knowing this story and others she had been privy to, Debbie then asked me an interesting question: "Why do I keep trying to develop a community Internet site in the face of all these years of opposition?" Good question. As I recall I gave her some generic answer at the time.

Debbie, I would like another shot...

It was only in part about Bainbridge Island. If you take the knowledge you now possess about the back room politics of this community and read between the lines of this page, you will see it is about the future of all communities and how the Internet (communications), in the hands of the average citizen, can precipitate a positive change in their respective communities. The Bainbridge Buzz was a good example. It is also an "engine of change" and creation if kept free.

So, Debbie, I hope this page and others that will appear in this new site are a better answer to your question.

One I often ask myself ;-) - Dave


What the world needs at this place in time is a Johnny Apple Seed of Community on the Internet to travel the world over,
looking for fertile ground to plant the seeds and to seek out the springs of knowledge, leadership and ethics to water them.
Net Neutrality is as important as global warming.
Pehaps those who seek to "Do No Evil" are the key.

Dave Henry


Foot Note: (1) The "Round Table for Tourism" was a City of Bainbridge Island sponsored event chaired by council members Bebbra Vancil and Bob Scales. I attended most of the city committee meeting pertaining to this event, much of the time I was the only one their. I related several projects relating to tourism that were of value to the community that the Bainbridge Island Community Network had done in the past (like promoting the concept of turning the Ferry Maintenance Yard into the "Mystic Seaport of the West Coast" when the timing was right in Olympia to do so. Councilman Merrill Robison was the only one in government or the business community who spoke up for this project at that time. I 695 was the only reason it died.

I also presented my visitor section on the net as well as other projects and supporting hit statistics from the web site. They must have concluded that the internet was irrelevant to tourism on Bainbridge because I was excluded from participating in the event, even from commenting from the audience during that comment period. (This is Bainbridge Island, this is who we are.)