Network to Communities: the evolution of omidyar.net

If you are not already familiar, omidyar.net/home/ has been an active online community sine July 04. It was created and opened up by Omidyar Network LLC, tracing back to Pierre Omidyar of Ebay fame. The purpose of the network space was to help more and more people discover their power to make good things happen. This attracted a particular crowd interested in making the world a better place, some through entrepreneurship, some through tools, and other opportunities. And this network, with some 100-200 active engaged users and nearly 20,000 sign ons is being bumped off the platform. The hope or strategy perhaps is to foster communities of purpose to move beyond the limitations of the network and the platform to scale up and out more good things.

There is much I can say about this network, having been a highly active member for several years. I can speak to the philanthropy on and from and to the network. But that belongs in another topic space. What I want to address here is the movement from network to community. What distinguishes a network from a community? What are the advantages of a network? What are the advantages of a community? What are the disadvantages of each?

I have some answers of my own. And I would love to brainstorm this with others (you) as well.

My sense is that a network is a grouping of people through loose or weak affiliation. And that affiliation may not be the same across all relationships. As has been noted in network theory there is a great strength in weak ties. I consider a community to be a more densely woven connection of people who are joined by purpose or interest. You may not realize the scope of your network(s), but you likely know the scope of your community. There is a greater sense of self-awareness of the group within community. In fact that awareness is part of the distinguishing characteristics, in my mind. To know itself. To know what it holds in common.

I very much look forward to seeing how the network on omidyar.net/home/ moves to new spaces and creates communities (or not) in the coming months. And I am eager to understand how others see both the evolution and the community/network distinction.

2 thoughts on “Network to Communities: the evolution of omidyar.net

  • Hi Jean,
    Your definitions of network and community make sense. Omidyar Network’s definitions comport with yours, although we take a slightly different angle.

    Network: a group of people who build connections between them as a way to realize greater benefits to the individual.
    Community: a group of people who build connections between them as a way to realize greater collective benefit to all connected.

    I’d be interest to hear how others define these two concepts.

  • Yes, I can see how that distinction works well Wendy. The network also can have clusters of benefit circulation. But the community works on a “grow ours” philosophy, where networks tend to more about “getting mine” (and I say that without value judgment about the uses of either).

    So, if I understand that right, the move for Omidyar.net “community” is really an encouragement to move from network to community, from get mine to grow ours. That seemed unclear in the space over the years, some people working to grow and nurture the whole for collective benefit and others working toward their own interests.

    Thank you for sharing.

Comments are closed.