Community Building 101: The Framework

Community Building 101

One of the most common topics I speak on and work with on almost a daily basis is the topic of community building. How does an organization create, maintain, or grow a community? The topic is an interesting one and often a difficult one. Each community environment is different and unique and requires a thoughtful and focused plan to help nurture and grow from nothing into a powerful, strong, and successful community. The job of community building lies not with one person but with a group of people. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Start With A Team

I hinted at the first tip in my introduction. Quite simply the job of community building is not a one person job. In order to build a strong vibrant community you will want to make sure you have a small group of dedicated individuals who share a similar goal and objective. Of course understanding the meaning of a community and the purpose behind a community it should be relatively easily to find a group of individuals sharing a set of goals. If you can’t organize even a few people then perhaps you need to step back and re-evaluate those goals. Make sure you’re forming your community around the right thing. This dovetails nicely with the second tip.

Identify Your Nucleus

In order to successfully build a community you need to provide a nucleus which the community will be able to grow out from. This can be an ideal, a goal, a dream, or something more. The important thing is to have something which serves as the central focus for your community. Work with your team (mentioned above) to identify what your nucleus is and how you want to focus on your central reason for starting a community. This nucleus is vital as it serves as the anchor to which you can always return to as a community as you grow (or shrink).

 Create A Catalyst

The next thing you’ll want to do as you build your community is to create a catalyst. Find the thing which will cause your team and those individuals beginning to form around the nucleus to grow. Create an ecosystem where growth is inevitable. Of course there is only so much you and your initial team can do but there are certainly ways in which you can be the catalyst for growth. If you have identified your core values and goals and people begin to join in your community it’s important to give them the encouragement they need to grow. Think of the catalyst as the way in which you light the fire inside each volunteer to become more involved and to get others involved as well.

Define A Culture

The last tip I’ll mention in this post is to properly begin defining your culture. Don’t believe the culture will create itself and automatically appear simply because you’ve begun growing your community. The culture of a community takes thought, planning, and nurturing. You will want to create a culture which reflects your core values; the goals upon which you’ve begun building a community. It’s never too early to begin planning this piece. Community building means planning ahead. Plan for the success you’ll see and be ready to grow at an exponential pace. Having your culture defined and clear for everyone to feel at home and part of the community.

These are just a few tips to get you started in the job of community building. Being a community manager often feels as though the weight of the community is on your shoulders. The reality is a good community manager recognizes it’s not the job of an individual but is a part of everyone’s role in the community. Community building takes time, effort, and thought.

The Enabler

I love the role of community manager because I get to be the enabler. I’m the vocal volunteer encouraging others to get involved. In some ways the community manager is the tangible result of a good catalyst. I get to share the spark with others and fan the flame of the community to encourage others to become a part. Based on my experiences I may share more ideas directly related to the role of the community manager-and I may also share my reasoning why I think the title is wrong.

Community Building is Fun

Building a community is incredibly fun and is an opportunity to reach out to others, make new friends, grow common interests, and be a part of something. I’ve got a million more ideas on community building…not because I’m an expert, more from my own failures than anything else. I’ll probably share more in future posts. I may get into specifics on ways you can help communities grow. Got ideas? I want to hear them. Let’s share our knowledge and improve each other’s understanding.