Pareto opportunities for Friends?

Nate Sil­ver recently ran a piece on Marco Rubio’s pres­i­den­tial chances has used the previously-unknown-to-me con­cept of the “Pareto fron­tier” to line up poten­tial can­di­dates:

In eco­nom­ics, there’s a con­cept known as Pareto effi­ciency. It means that you ought to be able to elim­i­nate any choice if another one dom­i­nates it along every dimen­sion. The remain­ing choices sit along what’s called the Pareto fron­tier.

Sil­ver then fol­lowed up with a real world exam­ple that speaks to my inter­est in food:

Imag­ine that in addi­tion to White Cas­tle and The French Laun­dry, there are two Ital­ian restau­rants in your neigh­bor­hood. One is the chain restau­rant Olive Gar­den. You actu­ally like Olive Gar­den per­fectly well. But down the block is a local red-sauce joint called Giovanni’s. The food is a lit­tle bet­ter there than at Olive Gar­den (although not as good as at The French Laun­dry), and it’s a lit­tle cheaper than Olive Gar­den (although not as cheap as White Cas­tle). So you can elim­i­nate Olive Gar­den from your reper­toire; it’s dom­i­nated along both dimen­sions by Giovanni’s.

These days we choose more than our din­ner des­ti­na­tions. Spir­i­tu­al­ity has become a mar­ket­place. While there have always been con­verts, it feels as if the pace of reli­gious lane-changing has steadily quick­ened in recent times. Many peo­ple are choos­ing their reli­gious affil­i­a­tion rather than stick­ing with the faith tra­di­tions of their par­ents. For Quak­ers, this has been a net pos­i­tive, as many of our meet­ing­houses are full of “con­vinced” Friends who came in to our reli­gious soci­ety as adults.

Quak­ers are some­what unique in our mar­ket poten­tial. I would argue that we fall on two spots of the reli­gious “pareto curve”:

  • The first is a kind of mass-market entry point for the “spir­i­tual but not reli­gious” set that wants to dip its toe into an orga­nized reli­gion that’s nei­ther very orga­nized nor reli­gious. Lib­eral Friends don’t have min­is­ters or creeds, we don’t feel or sound too churchy, and we’re not par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about what new seek­ers believe. It’s a per­fect fit for do-it-yourself seek­ers that are look­ing for non-judgmental spiritually-minded pro­gres­sives.
  • Our sec­ond pareto fron­tier beach­head is more grad-school level: we’re a good spot for peo­ple who have a strong reli­gious con­vic­tions but seek a com­mu­nity with less restric­tions. They’ve mem­o­rized whole sec­tions of the Bible and might have the­o­log­i­cal train­ing. They’re burned out by judg­men­tal­ism and spirit-less rou­tine and are seek­ing out a more authen­tic reli­gious com­mu­nity of reli­gious peers open to dis­cus­sion and growth.

It seems we often reach out to one or the other type of “pareto” seeker. I see that as part of the dis­cus­sion around Micah Bales’s recent piece on Quaker church plant­ing–do we focus on new, unaf­fil­i­ated seek­ers or seri­ous reli­gious dis­ci­ples look­ing for a dif­fer­ent type of com­mu­nity. I’d be curi­ous to hear if any Quaker out­reach pro­grams have tried to reach out to both simul­ta­ne­ously. Is it even pos­si­ble to sucess­fully mar­ket that kind of dual mes­sage?

The two-touch pareto nature of Friends and pop spir­i­tual cul­ture sug­gests that meet­ings could focus their inter­nal work on being the bridge from what we might call the “pareto entrances.” New­com­ers who have walked through the door because we’re not out­wardly churchy could be wel­comed into Quak­erism 101 courses to be intro­duced to Quaker tech­niques for spir­i­tual ground­ing and growth – and so they can deter­mine whether for­mal mem­ber­ship is a good fit. Those who have come for the deep spir­i­tual ground­ing can join as well, but also be given the oppor­tu­ni­ties for smaller-scale reli­gious con­ver­sa­tions and prac­tice, through Bible study groups, regional extended wor­ships and trips to regional oppor­tu­ni­ties.

If you add charts you don't understand to blog posts, people will think you're extra smart.
If you add charts to blog posts, peo­ple will think you’re super-duper smart.

What Does Community Mean When People Keep Leaving?

What Does Com­mu­nity Mean When Peo­ple Keep Leav­ing?. Micah Bales looks at tran­sient com­mu­ni­ties:

What does this tran­sience mean for the pos­si­bil­ity of being part of a long-term, sta­ble com­mu­nity? What does com­mu­nity even mean in the con­text of the unceas­ing ebb and flow of arrivals and depar­tures?

A Gathered People

A Gath­ered Peo­ple. Craig Bar­nett on com­mu­nity in the mod­ern world:

A gath­ered peo­ple is not just an asso­ci­a­tion of indi­vid­u­als who hap­pen to share over­lap­ping val­ues or inter­ests. It is formed by the rais­ing and quick­en­ing of a new spir­i­tual life and power within each per­son.

The refuge of community

The refuge of com­mu­nity. The Malachut blog­ger gives a mod­ern response to the early Quaker let­ter from Balby:

The Elders end this advice with“Lest the Truth Suffer“this to me means that we can­not have onne form of the com­mu­nity with­out the oth​ers​.Com​mu​nity itself can­not exist with­out being some­thing with­out com­pas­sion just as much not being a place that goes far beyond it’s bor­ders.

Reflections on the 2014 Swarthmore LectuBeing honest about the stories we tell

Reflec­tions on the 2014 Swarth­more Lec­tuBe­ing hon­est about the sto­ries we tell:

Mark Russ on the sto­ries in our Quaker the­olo­gies: > We need good the­ol­ogy, because there’s a lot of bad the­ol­ogy out there. I believe that the­ol­ogy in its sim­plest form is the story we tell as a reli­gious com­mu­nity, about our begin­nings, how we got here and where we’re going.

A story incomplete: Virginia Alexander’s life among Friends

A story incom­plete: Vir­ginia Alexander’s life among Friends:

In the AFSC blog, the story of pio­neer­ing Friend: 

Even though Dr. Alexan­der grad­u­ated from two élite uni­ver­si­ties, cared for Quak­ers in her med­ical prac­tice, and was very active in Quaker cir­cles, she was still not wel­comed by all into a reli­gious com­mu­nity that she claimed as her own.

The Atlantic City history of Monopoly

The Atlantic City his­tory of Monop­oly:

Because of a new book by Mary Pilon, the not-so-secret his­tory of Monop­oly is once more get­ting a lot of atten­tion. This excerpt from Pilon’s The Monop­o­lists shares the A.C. his­tory.

On one side were the mas­ters of vice and those who tol­er­ated that vice because of the wealth pour­ing into the town. On the other side were the reformists, includ­ing the Quak­ers, who wanted Atlantic City to be a clean, middle-class get­away, not a sor­did play­ground.

And in case you thought A.C. has changed so much, it’s not a coin­ci­dence that the com­mu­nity col­lege cam­pus where my wife often teaches is on Baltic Avenue,  that dirty-orange, low-price strip Baltic Avenue.

Know your audience

Some good tips about polling your website’s audi­ence to learn what they’re look­ing for. The author +Daniel Tread­well the devel­oper of the Google+Blog plug-in for Word­Press that lets you sync between the two.

Know your Audi­ence
Last year with the release of Google+ it was made very obvi­ous that a large amount of peo­ple have been look­ing for a new com­mu­nity that allows them to share their time, their art and their opin­ions with oth­ers in a way that was not pre­vi­ously avail­able.

Once you have gained a sig­nif­i­cant amount of fol­low­ers (and this amount is sub­jec­tive and per­sonal, what is a large num­ber to one may not be to another) most peo­ple will start to won­der exactly what it is that their audi­ence is most inter­ested in

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