You don't always have to manage alone - community as the foundation for well-being and resilience

The importance of community and relationships for an individual's well-being are significant. People have a fundamental need to belong to a community. In research, community, alongside autonomy and competency, has been recognized as a basic human need. At its best, community offers support, encouragement, and security. It also reinforces learning and personal growth, providing meaning to life. Community and networks are integral in enhancing resilience.
ihmisiä tunnelin päässä

For entrepreneurs, communities and networks are not only significant sources of support but also enablers for their businesses. New partnerships, sales, and development often occur within communities and networks. Going alone can only get you so far. Networks and empowering relationships not only help in times of adversity but also strengthen belief when facing new challenges. In the Tolerance project, when conducting well-being coaching for entrepreneurs, we noticed that learning from fellow entrepreneurs, sharing experiences, peer support, creating new partnerships and ideas, and collectively improving things became even more important than the official coaching program.

From village communities to today’s sense of community

In the past, large extended families and village communities naturally provided a sense of belonging and relationships. Even though people have largely moved away from rural areas, the need for human relationships and community has not changed. Nowadays, belonging to a community doesn't necessarily happen on its own, it requires effort. Especially during the COVID-19 era, we learned how important human relationships and networks are, especially during times of crisis. In an individual-focused society, we've lost a lot of this resource of community, and it's important to consciously seek it out again.

While we may not return to traditional rural villages and extended family communities, we can still create a sense of community in the modern age. Are you part of any community, and what's the state of your relationships and networks? It's worthwhile to take inventory of both and consider how to strengthen them. Few can thrive in isolation, and we don't need to. You can strengthen your networks and, in turn, your sense of community by participating and seeking out existing communities through events, professional networks, hobby groups, and volunteer work, as well as intentionally building networks and helping others. You'll find that it's worth it.

Entrepreneurs' Experiences with Well-being Coaching

In the Tolerance project in Central Finland, community has become a significant part of the implemented well-being coaching. Entrepreneurs found value in relaxed discussions with other entrepreneurs, as these discussions allowed them to hear others' thoughts and realize that others were grappling with similar issues. Learning from others, sharing experiences, increased enthusiasm and motivation for taking care of their well-being. When coming together, sharing thoughts and experiences, generating new ideas, spreading positivity, and helping each other became important factors.

The sense of community is rising

Several initiatives to strengthen entrepreneurs' sense of community have emerged in Central Finland. The most recent one I'm aware of is Laukaa’s Yritystankkaamo - a communal space for local entrepreneurs. Laukaa’s Yritystankkaamo aims to enhance well-being, community, and adaptability, offering entrepreneurs an excellent platform for coaching, meetings, community, and learning. The project is carried out by the University of Oulu's Kerttu Saalasti Institute in collaboration with the municipality of Laukaa. Throughout the project, I will examine the impact of communal space and community on an entrepreneur's resilience and its strengthening in my own research.

Now is the time to discard the 'I can do it on my own, I don't need help' mentality and, when possible, join or initiate a community or network. Together, it's more, and it's more enjoyable.

Santeri Halonen, M.Sc., Doctoral Researcher, University of Oulu's Kerttu Saalasti Institute, MicroENTRE® Micro-Entrepreneurship Center. The author works as a change coach and expert for the multi-site MicroENTRE® in Central Finland in the Tolerance and Laukaan Yritystankkaamo projects.