Voluntary associations depend on people who step up and let others free ride on their efforts.
Two examples come to mind:
1) We have friends who organize workouts on the beach 1-2 times a week in the summer. They bring hurdles and rings and ladders and set up elaborate courses. It's open to anyone. Sometimes three people show up, sometimes a dozen. it builds community and those of us who do it greatly appreciate it.
2) My wife and I entertain a lot to bring people together IRL. There's no purpose to it other than we like being with the people we invite and seeing them enjoy themselves.
My single-bullet theory is that a significant causal factor in the demise of associations was the City Beautiful movement that originated (or at least burst onto the scene) at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Budding 20th century urban planners wanted people to live far from their workplaces. Commuting consumed time. People lived far from business associates who would have been natural friends in early periods. I grew up in a small city where everyone lived, worked, and worshiped within a mile of one another. Hence, you tended to know people in multiple ways and saw them at differing hours. I'll readily admit borrowing much of my thinking from Jane Jacobs, though she thought her theories were primarily applicable to big cities. (I am planning to write a piece on this soon.)
It used to be that charity and volunteerism were done anonymously and for the benefit of recipients, not the volunteers. I think the absolute worst part about our new information age is that it has eradicated humility in exchange for dopamine hits of attaboys online that we used to get by doing other things.
We just got back from a community day of service, organized by an interfaith group made up of a dozen-plus local churches and religious groups. There are still plenty of people who choose to volunteer, if you live in an area that hasn't abandoned churches as an organizing force.
Every now and then someone comes up with the idea of mandatory community service akin to a military draft apparently in the mistaken belief that American don't come forth to help others.
These proponents apparently have never seen the volunteers for Scouts, youth sports, Red Cross, disaster response teams from churches (i.e. Baptist Men Disaster Relief units), Habitat, volunteer fire departments, La Lech League, Food Banks, and the thousands of other organizations driven by and organized by volunteers.
Tocqueville was right.
You mentioned the word 'attention' once: the attention industry is what is occupying everybody more than ever, extensively, well researched, and efficiently. Talk of a game changer in our times.
I wonder if the early American inclination to form mutual associations is itself related to—or was the first step toward—the contemporary American tendency to create insular communities. Two sides of one coin kind of thing (with, perhaps, a lag?). Reading your interview with Monica Guzman made me think of her as someone who can happily associate with others as a group but who does not allow herself to be delimited by any such association. My hope is that she’s onto something that is both forward-looking and intrinsically American so that others will naturally follow her lead.