The Science Of Community

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!




This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Friday was a day of review of where we have been and renewal of friendships and discussions about the lives and times of like minded folks.
Adam does a great job on his appointed task of being the local ‘time cop’, keeping things moving along at a nice clip. The discussions Chris had with Charles and Richard of course were never quite long enough. I guess we PP people could talk about our predicament endlessly but when you are in a group like this, the discussions can really take on a depth that does not occur in our ‘other life’!
The tour of the local distillery was quite nice. I was very impressed with the young lady who gave the tour. She was very passionate about her work and knowledgeable about the processes and products … and she was obviously enjoying what she does.
The dinner topped off a great day with wonderful food and nice visits with the people we have become familiar with at PP. The venue was set up so that all of our favorite PP contributors rotated from table to table and everyone had opportunity to share time and stories.
I came away with renewed vitality about creating more ways to help create ‘a world worth inheriting’. Now for day two!!

Day one was chocked full of quality speakers, info, and friendly people.
Chris and Adam have honed their presentation skills and we’re getting the benefit.
Meeting CHS after reading his books and articles was as good as meeting a favorite rock star is to a starry-eyed teenager.
One small suggestion from the peanut gallery. In addition to our real name printed on the name tags, it would be helpful to have the screen names also. We might already know the person that we’re standing next to and not even know it. I think I’ll write mine in, maybe others can do the same.
Thank you,
Larry (um, I mean SingleSpeak)

So excited to learn you were coming to Austin. Then I realized that it was on Sunday and beginning at 10:am. I teach a Sunday School class every Sunday.
Do you ever hold seminars at other ties?
Texas Engineer

Great idea, SingleSpeak-- I know people mostly by their handles, so having both real names and handles would be helpful to those of us who read the comments avidly. (Or perhaps it could be an option for those who want to share both IDs…)
I had a wonderful time Friday, and appreciated everyone’s tolerance of my rambling talk. I am grateful Chris was on hand to keep me from wandering too much. It was a real pleasure to meet so many people and have a chance to converse over dinner with three different tables–terrific idea, Adam and Chris!
I also want to thank everyone who bought one of my books–that was my first book-signing, so it was a new experience for me. Adam pushed me to bring some books up and I’m glad he did.
The logistics were seamless, leaving us free to discuss a tremendous range of ideas.
As I said in my talk, you (the members of Peak Prosperity) are the experts in your fields of endeavor, and the entire day was a fire hose of information and personal experiences in resilience, community-building and the difficult trade-offs required of all of us who seek a more resilient and fulfilling life in a system that doesn’t put much value on those goals.
A special thank-you to everyone who came and introduced themselves, and to Davefairtex for keeping me company on the drive up and briefing me on some of his latest charts.
I am busy writing notes on ideas for future posts based on the day’s abundance of ideas.

The drive home was a great time to reflect on the 4 day event and realize how inspiring it is to connect up with people who share (in general) a common goal and aspire to help change the world into a smile rather than a frown.
Yep, lots of work to do and it’s fun work because doing it usually brings a smile to peoples faces. Sure, day one was another one of those Oh Shit days but the reality of the seminar is that we all can do something and we can help each other while it is happening. Sharing our experiences and ideas for change is a very positive activity because it does foster new ideas on how each of us can get there.
Building on the connections and ideas is the positive ‘growth’ we need and these events help it become an exponential activity. I really enjoyed spending time with the names and faces of the PP clan. Dave Fairtex, Charles H. Smith, Richard Heinberg to name a few well known people were great but the folks who faced disaster last year in the fires of Santa Rosa and in family tragedy were truly amazing. Their descriptions of people coming together in the face of adversity is the real story behind the power of people creating a future which we would want future generation to have.
Thanks Chris, Adam, Jason and all of you who participated for a great weekend and sharing your valuable time.

What an amazing weekend. 100+ of the most amazing people. And it was the first time in years I could talk about Trump, Hillary, or Jordan Peterson (haha) without someone wanting to punch someone in the face. Imagine!
After reading this blog for years, the readers far exceeded my expectations. What a special group.
BTW, I forgot to tell you all that I actually know the exact day the crash will happen…the day I finally get enough guts to put my house on the market. I’ll keep you all posted.
Thank you so very much for putting this together, and having it in California. My only complaint is it was far too short.
Kali - “Tude” is my middle name.

I will apologize in advance for being the guy in the elevator who farted, but it has occurred to me that all of us who frequent the PP website and share many of the those concerns, need to be cognizant of the risks associated “confirmation bias”. I am sure this past weekend was uplifting, mind expanding and socially affirming. I secretly wish I could have been there. I was unfortunately/fortunately putting in the garden, tending grandchildren and socializing with some seniors. I would have found it difficult to attend due to financial and time constraints. That being said, I feel that the only thing I can offer in response to the plaudits of those in attendance is to share your insights with those who truly need to become aware of our worldly predicament.
This time of year is indicative of rebirth and growth. My advice is to find a young person and share your hope about the future and wonderful possibilities there are to make a difference. I have linked a Nat Hagen talk at Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 2016 to all my children to encourage their sapience. If you can’t afford the time for the whole thing, review the last 20 minutes of conclusions. It gives hope even to a cynical old bastard like me!

Uncletommy wrote:

That being said, I feel that the only thing I can offer in response to the plaudits of those in attendance is to share your insights with those who truly need to become aware of our worldly predicament.

Which is of course one of the main 'takeaways' from attending the event. For myself, being able to do something about our predicament has always been an activity which is well worth investing in. When I connect with other like minded folks I invariably come away with many, many ideas and connections on how to do just that. For example; a landscape architect who worked on the Landscape Corridor Project in Sonoma was introduced and her work in helping with the landscaping around our seminar venue was mentioned. It is part of our 'living capital'. Expanding our own eight forms of capital and helping others do the same is a major part of this type of event. Because of the seminar, I contacted someone who can help me with a project I am working on which involves improving a 100 year old agricultural property in Marin Co. That is just a small insight into how the seminar process works to expand each of our lives. I hope you can make the event next year. Coop

Hi Uncletommy,
When I clicked on your link, I got a click and then (for me) YouTube went onto this -

It is Nate Hagens' talk on Earth Day 23/4/2017 at Rochester - 'Blind Spots and Superheroes'. I wanted to thank you, because I thought this talk was absolutely superb. I knew of Nate Hagens, but I had never seen a talk of his before. Thanks again, when I have time I will work my way through some of his other talks! Shatsta

Mr. Hagens presented 4-23-18 in Salina Ks.- sponsored by the Land Institute and Kansas Wesleyan University. Wes Jackson had a pretty large hand in getting him there. He had an afternoon talk at The Land with more data, the evening talk was presented for a general audience. He can really pull a lot of data together in a digestable visual form. The younger folks in the audience, both scientists from The Land and students at the college,understand our predicament but don’t seem to spend much time on regret/ sadness. I suspect that being younger and not carrying around the crazy visions of the 20th century may be an advantage going forward. I look forward to PP having an interview with Wes Jackson, Stan Cox or Ted Crews about our agricultural predicament.

In the spirit of creating a world worth inheriting, maybe creating a way people can attend virtually. I limit my carbon footprint to one or two airline flights a year to visit parents and in laws. I know webinars not the same experience , but still a way to connect and share information that is less polluting.