Ok, here were some of my thoughts with what if community building was taught in schools.
Immediately I thought about how this is naturally happening in school because you’re throwing students together and in the unorganized, unstructured part of their days, community-building is what’s happening.
It made me pause and wonder if we try to overly structure or curriculum-ize community building, does that inhibit actual real, natural community-building? And if so, then how do we ensure that the curriculum enhances the natural connections that are already there.
An example that came to mind was a study I read a long time back about the effect of little league on leadership in boys. They found that little league (a lot more structure to make baseball more accessible) as actually producing less leadership skills than the traditional sandlot-style groups of boys that would get together, work out their roles, and play. The nature of no adults there actually produced better development for the kids than a tightly controlled environment like little league.
So it made me excited because I think schools are already the playground for community-building, but it also made me pause with a lot of caution about how to go about doing that in a way that empowers kids to build their community skills without backfiring. Thoughts??
So good ! Oof course be thinking about this in a way that isn’t overly formulaic forgot who I was talking to!
Very high level here, but when I think about teaching the fundamentals of community building for kids, I would have them articulate a problem that they experience (like, it’s hard for me to get out of bed, or I really want this new video game but I don’t have enough money), then task them with finding other people who have that same problem.
After that, how can they solve the problem together. Do they just need to talk about it in a safe place? Do they need to put on an event and bring in an expert?
I reckon foundational stuff would be very much welcome.
For those experienced they could use it to reflect on their current approach. I think it’s powerful when someone in a profession has a moment to say to themselves, “oh wow, I’m already doing that. And it has a name. I’m not alone. Cool!” And experienced folks/leaders can also use the curriculum to train people in their team/s.
And for those new to the world of being a community professional it would set them up with a toolbox of ideas and approaches to help them succeed in their career.
In a recent project with a completely new org who hadn’t built any community before these were the things that they needed:
Community purpose (why do we think a community would be the best way to address this) and we did interviews with colleagues running existing ‘communities’ (which weren’t actually but were useful information gathering)
Who do we expect to be in this community and what do we know about them? We used Emily Webber’s CoP tests (do they share the purpose/challenges, will they learn things will they be able to teach things) we grouped these by role and also did some affinity mapping on behaviours or attributes of the group.
We then co-wrote a purpose covering who we are, the purpose of this community is to, what we will be doing, and then some guidelines
Then we worked out what a community manager role should be for the org, what was most important and what level of resource it might take
We also mapped out the ‘shape’ of some of their communities and some other communities to show what they looked like and what the limitations were.
Worth noting that this was all groundwork for the org to get them prepared for a community way of thinking so was done with limited input from the people who would make up the community (though there was some, particularly around writing the purpose). So the above I’m describing is what the org needed to feel confident they understood before they could get moving, but it felt a reasonable MVP to get a test community off the ground.
For me and being honest my needs for community, some key useful stuff would be how do develop good community OKR (Objectives and Key Results). Being able to illustrate real Return on Investment through those Key Results. I am like a lot of you in the position where we need to justify community and what it does. So being able to really show and quantify the value add of community at the individual, community and organizational level would be a key factor.
Also developing charters, this is something I am doing just now in my community at work, I have found some great examples out there the Ministry of Testing one being a very good example. Code of Conduct | Ministry of Testing but a resource that helped you to develop one suitable for your community, enterprise whatever. I may ask chatGPT right enough!
Oh and leadership models, I use 2 different models in my commnunities at work. We have a joint compassionate focussed leadership model for the Mindfulness and Meditation Community and a more traditional, hub spoke workstream driven model for my Quality Engineering Community.
I think there is a specific subset for both open source and developer relations areas within community management that would give way to niche content there. I’m still mulling on what those might look like specifically though.
I’ve said this on LinkedIn recently, but my biggest qualm about community resources at this very moment is everything is nearly 100% slanted toward product and support communities.
While those types are a core part of the industry right now, I wanted to voice there should be guardrails in an open-source curriculum to elevate multiple forms of community (or evergreen practices). Otherwise discussions on topics like ROI, for example, almost always end up back at case deflection or hard revenue.