Title: The sense of community in a geographically dispersed organisation

Authors: Karla R. Peters-Van Havel

Addresses: Fielding Graduate University, 2020 De la Vina Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, USA; The Institute for Management Studies, 201 W. Liberty, Ste. 100, Reno, NV 89501, USA

Abstract: This case study of Black Rock City, also known as Burning Man, examines the psychological sense of community (PSOC) within a geographically dispersed organisation, identifies communal aspects, and embarks upon an understanding of the intentional and fortuitous aspects of managing and developing a systemic community without physical boundaries. The methodology used is a qualitative case study with data collection procedures including in-depth exploratory interviews of self-defined Burners, a history, direct observations, an ethnographic study, and primary research using the sense of community index version 2 (N = 222), commonly referred to as the SCI-2 (Chavis et al., 2008). Findings of this study convey 'shared emotional connection' as the most important factor of this geo-dispersed community. Thematic analysis also suggests that acceptance, collaboration, and shared symbols and rituals can create a 'sense of community' despite ambiguous boundaries.

Keywords: psychological sense of community; PSOC; geographically dispersed organisations; fortuitous communities; Burning Man; collaboration; ambiguous boundaries; management; human resource development; HRD; communal aspects; shared emotions; emotional connections; geo-dispersed communities; acceptance; shared symbols; shared rituals.

DOI: 10.1504/IJHRDM.2013.055415

International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 2013 Vol.13 No.2/3, pp.153 - 168

Published online: 19 Jul 2014 *

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