The world of the consumerism is changing. A growing number of us no longer want to be the passive receivers of products and services designed and developed for us by faceless others. We want to be active citizens, involved in shaping what we receive, and influencing how we receive it.

Innovative businesses, organisations and communities understand this desire to participate, and are using technology to partner with us as employees, customers, patients and students.

They are enabling us to be involved in the design and development of the goods, services and experiences that we most want and which serve our needs most effectively.

So how are they involving us?

By creating and hosting communities that have three distinctive aspects to them – purpose, power and action.

1. Communities of Purpose

Innovative organisations understand the interconnectedness of belonging and community. They understand that many of us want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, and which we perceive is making a difference.

Communities with a clearly defined purpose enable us to join and get behind something that matters whilst participating around a clearly defined set of values and beliefs.

A lovely example of a purpose led community is the “This City is Going on a Diet” www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com

In 2011 Oklahoma City was amongst the top ten most obese cities in the United States. Mayor Mick Cornett and other community leaders wanted to bring this to the attention of everyone in the city, and also invite every citizen to engage with a healthier lifestyle.

He set up a community website and invited everyone to join him in the challenge of losing over a million pounds in weight. The community space helped people join up with others across the city. Wellness runs and walks were also designed so people could raise money for local charities by losing weight.

2. Communities of Power

We all want to have the power to influence and take ownership over what we receive.

I want to be heard, and I want my words to count. And I want to express my opinions freely and have my perspective impact the services I receive.

Innovative organisations understand this and involve us through inspiring conversations and offer invitations to provide our opinions through conversations, polls and voting.

Richmond Housing Partnership is one such organisation. It is a social housing provider which has won numerous customer service awards and is respected and admired for the way it involves its’ customers in the design and development of their services. In 2015, RHP and Richmond Council carried out a consultation with residents and the wider community on a proposal for the redevelopment of Ham Close. www.hamclose.co.uk.

They created a community of influence and power and residents were involved in shaping what exists now. They used a blend of the virtual and the physical to achieve some really wonderful outcomes.

3. Communities of Action

I want to know that I have been heard and that my words have resulted in action. And there are millions of people who want to actively participate in improving and developing the hospitals, schools, businesses, organisations and communities which serve us all.

If we are to remain active participants we need to have direct evidence of the impact our contributions are making. If we look at both Oklahoma City and RHP, they understand the need for demonstrating action.

The “This City is Going on a Diet” programme has success criteria built into its virtual space. It tracks and publishes data about the number of pounds lost, the number of miles walked, and the number of members who have joined. The site continually tracks success so everyone joining knows what’s been achieved so far and is inspired and motivated by the results.

In RHP’s case residents have access to a timeline and are kept up to date about progress and activities.

The  principles of purpose, power and action are highly visible on the platforms of both initiatives.  Their existence  ensures that the customers of both communities are actively involved and enjoying all the benefits of active participation.