I gave this talk in-person at our most recent San Francisco Retreat – I hope that posting it here provides you with an overview of not only how communities get put together but also some of the more fundamental building-blocks that you can think through as you begin to work on your own community-building projects!
Good luck and have fun!
Creating Value Out of Relationships
Without community, there is no liberation… but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.Audre lorde
Community, at its most simple definition, is a large or social unit that has something in common.
It has existed since the dawn of the human race, and was created as a means of survival. Without community, the discovery of fire would not have been passed down to future generations.
Religions, countries, brands, currency, and yes, even cryptocurrency would not exist if it wasn’t for the communities that support them, which is why community building is so important.
When building community, you first have to understand why people join communities.
Reasons People Join Communities
There are a number of reasons why folks join communities! As you read through this list, think of the many communities that you’ve joined yourself and see if you can identify any of the underlying reasons that may have motivated you to join in the first place.
If someone wants to get certain legislation passed, then maybe they would join a political party or non-profit organization. If someone wants to grow their business then maybe they would join a networking group or a chamber of commerce.
Many people have behaviors that they want to change, but sometimes that is difficult to do on your own. Communities like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous use the power of accountability and peer reinforcement to improve the daily behavior of their members.
Looking to learn more about crypto? Join the Bitcoin Pub and request access to YEN! Most people learn better together, and collaboration can lead to inspiration that would not may not have come without community based learning.
The majority of people desire a sense of purpose in their lives. Whether it be faith based or value based, people join communities to be apart of something larger than themselves.
People want to socialize with people that share a common interest. Local sports leagues or community gardens are examples of this. Online communities are also great ways to connect with people who share a common interest.
Community Building: Getting Started
So, how do you build community? There are three things you should consider when building community:
- Relevance – Community is based in people coming together with a shared common interest. You have to always understand why organizations and people are joining your community.
- Organizational Strength – No community is built without forming strong relationships with your members. That being said, a community is never only one person communicating to everyone else. It is essential that you form relationships with your community, but it is also essential to create an environment that fosters relationship building between community members as well. A community with strong relationships will ultimately grow itself (organize yourself out of a job).
- Leadership Development – A more leader-full community is a strong community. Commitment to developing leaders within your community leads to its preservation. Leadership opportunities adds another layer of both functional and emotional stickiness within your community. Building leaders empowers members of your community to grow as your community grows.
If you look at the chart above, you can see an example of how someone can develop into a leader in your online community.
Leaders do not just happen, they are developed, and it takes time. You must always be on the lookout for new potential leaders within your community. Someone becomes a member? Welcome them! Someone writes a blog post? Comment on the post. Someone does a fantastic livestream? Schedule a meeting with them and see if they would be interested in a leadership opportunity. If they are already willing to do all of the above, then the answer is usually yes.
Models of Leadership Matter
Traditional models of leadership are not scalable – you end up having everybody talking to you or nobody talking to each other.
Many current social media platforms make this worse. Imagine waking up to 100+ notifications on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Or not realizing that engagement and conversations about your content were happening without your knowledge.
This is why having a quality, easy to understand model of leadership is important.
The Snowflake Model
The “Snowflake Model” allows you to scale your community in ways that are actually manageable, repeatable, and calculable.
It is not simply top down leadership. Communication is transferred up, down, and around, throughout the organization.
Here are a few more characteristics to look out for:
- Sustainable management ratios
- Clear pathways for open and honest communication
- Mutual accountability
- Clearly defined roles and expectations
- Shared responsibility
- Multiplying effect
It goes without saying that community matters – it has been essential to human development since the dawn of civilization. That being said, it is easy to forget how important it is in this day and age. It is easy to separate yourself from your peers and forget the value of community.
The quote in the beginning of the post by Audre Lorde continues to resonate with us at YEN:
Without community there is no liberation!
We at YEN understand this more than most, which is why we are building the world’s best community building tool.
Community building takes time and can be difficult, which is why we are here to help you along the way! Below are some questions to ask yourself when building community.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Building a New Community
If you can answer a definitive “YES” to all of these questions, then you are on the right track!
- Functional Stickiness – Are people getting what they want out of your community?
- Emotional Stickiness – Are people building long lasting relationships with you and other community members?
- Communication – Do people know why they are here? Is what you are saying being filtered down properly?
- Investment in Community – Are you adjusting your goals based on your communities needs? Are you trying to add more value everyday?
- Personable – Are you telling your personal story? Do community members know why they are here?
We’re not experts at community development but we’re sure going to try! As you learn things (e.g. new techniques, strategies, tools, etc) we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to ping me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org