April 11, 2015 / 2013 / December / Collision Spaces

Collision Spaces

submitted December 05, 2013 by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

This week I had the opportunity to make a presentation encouraging community development professionals to consider new ways of including churches in their community planning. Outside of the obvious suggestions to hold community meetings, support groups, etc. in church facilities, we had an interesting discussion about 'collision spaces'. 

What are 'collision spaces'? 

Collision spaces as defined by Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, involves “forcing more collaboration through collisions [seemingly random interactions].” Hsieh believes that "it's really important for people from all different backgrounds and industries to collide and talk to each other. That's where a lot of the great ideas come from."

In the context of an intersection of faith and community development, we talked about using collision centers as a way to build empathy. Why might a community developer wish to build empathy? For example, in an automobile-based city like Indianapolis, many people might not have a need for a robust public transportation system. However, if they regularly come into contact with those who do, they might be more likely to put themselves in others' shoes and recognize the community's need, even if it doesn't seem to be personally important. 

Faith communities have an obvious interest in promoting empathy for each other. If community developers are building empathy directly or indirectly by encouraging these 'collision centers' (whether they are coffee shops, benches, or reclaimed lots), then faith communities will have new opportunities to take part in the life of their community. 

Of course, these collision spaces already exist; we do not have to wait for new ones to be developed. Where are the collision spaces in your community? Are you present there? How might you rethink your involvement in these spaces to minister to others effectively?