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Fall is here. Leaves, nuts, mushrooms, grey, raining, sunny and windy days are coming as we live the Indian summer’s last days. Every year I enjoy this season very much. This shift makes me revisit thoughts, experiences, and engagement within online communities and community projects and revisit the discipline of community management. I am observing community patterns and learning leading practices.
With the pandemic, I have noticed the shift from public social networks to private online communities. To be felt, seen and heard. To be supported and uplifted by fellow explorers, seekers and instigators in a turbulent and ever-changing world.
I also became aware of the ways and which we engage one conversation and community at a time, on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. From meetups and coffee chats to webinars to live chats. From learning programs to virtual peer assistance. There is a framework to enable organizations and individuals, especially community professionals, to assess the efficacy and depth of their engagement maturity, strategy and actions. Each year we can discover the state of community management through a report and webinar from The Community Roundtable that brings clarity with research and trends on the work of mavens and game-changing networked organizations.
Engaging within Communities
I have gained perspectives with different roles: from being a member and a host to being an internal community strategist and manager.
As an active member of global communities – communities of practice and learning communities focused on learning and work futures. I am immersed in getting to know and support members, sharing knowledge, experience, and reflecting. To make sense of our complex and changing world. To develop habits, practices and approaches from disciplines such as community management, futures thinking and personal knowledge mastery, and to decide better.
From those gatherings, we may make and close triangles and other shapes – flat or in 3D. What works and what doesn’t work for networks weaving/convening?
“Making your network smarter is one aspect of leadership in our digitally connected world and so is convening the best parts of your network in order to address complex issues and make decisions. In crises, sometimes perfection is the enemy of the good, so having a diverse, knowledgeable, and experienced group of advisors becomes critical.” — @hjarche
I learn faster because I feel safe, seen, and heard within a private online space with practitioners worldwide. Because there is trustworthiness built and nurtured one conversation, week/month/quarter/year at a time. Through coffee chats, meetups, webinars and asynchronous chats on instant messaging or community platforms.
Is there room for improvement for potential cooperation and collaboration between members to instigate anything? Whether it is a small artefact or project, bigger ones or a community/learning program to onboard, develop and even offboard members, for instance.
How can we unleash the value of asynchronous chats, in addition to live Zoom chats and reduce the Zoom fatigue and level up the low engagement of members that inevitably occurs after waves of high engagements?
Our professional development can be propelled through online communities and could be the gateway to explore possible collaborative projects if:
The active members know the why they gather and engage – whether it is for their work lifestyle integration, enhancing their learning and community potential/performance, and bring back their humanity in a world of constraints, uncertainty and hyper-connectedness.
“There is but one solution to the intricate riddle of life; to improve ourselves, and contribute to the happiness of others.” via @brainpicker
Being in Community Motion
As a host of gatherings, conversations and activities such as community book club and the host of future skills workshops. I enjoy being the master of ceremony, host, animation,r and the captain of cohort/group/crew to observe how social dynamics evolve fast and slow over one hour or day, whether through online community book clubs or F2F workshops to develop social skills.
I noticed through my experience that it is about the energy that comes from me. It can be supercharged when people come together with resources: curated and created content, learning circles, silence and chatty moments. We use collaborative tools and analogue ones, physical movement and peer observations/feedback.
It is also about the velocity and serendipity of conversations and the random collision of participants who may be reassured to know what the plan of an event is in the kick-off of a workshop or a book club. But then we end up doing something completely different and unique with outputs they/I haven’t predicted. It is about embracing not knowing and exploring at large with our boundless curiosity. This is about innovating to test the water, making sense by looking back to look forward while activating our superpowers, actionable insights and small caring networks and communities.
And the journey doesn’t stop when the workshop or the book club stops. It can and must continue through follow up resources, future sessions or reviews of past ones to convene and keep developing members of doers.
Riding the Community Waves
Scoping a distributed work and networked learning program, activities and resources to develop future work capabilities, mindset and toolset.
Contributing to the learning design of the program: co-creation of innovative pedagogical events, contents and engaging touchpoints to make the community members work, learn and reflect together.
Onboarding, accompanying and offboarding each member based on their context, needs and constraints in the context of the pandemic.
Coordinating and hosting gatherings as a generous and professional host/leader within the learning community/community of practice/center of excellence that went remote and distributed.
Programming F2F and digital events, content and engagement times to generate and propel community member’s active engagement and professional development.
Providing pedagogical, mental and technological virtual peer assistance through social presence, many actions, resources and hopefully a community team.
Working on community measurement and metrics to work on indicators and improvements that matter to the organization.
Putting on the spotlight the crème de la crème of active members – profiles, productions, actionable insights from conversations, projects and results through a consistent and meaningful editorial calendar, distribution and amplification of social posts, scale of the minimum viable audience, and retrospective and synthesis for the collective intelligence.
This work can be exciting, energizing and draining, especially when there is only one community manager who brings continuous real-time and asynchronous support to members who need assistance on pedagogical or technological issues regarding the learning program or the community platform we use. The fuel in the community movement takes patience, effort and is rewarding waves after waves of support, conversation and motion.
There will always be a cycle of engagement with highs and lows. Vibrant live and asynchronous conversations, events and movements and other times are when the community is like a ghost town or a desert.
“Many executives conflate online social networks with online communities and because of this miss the opportunity, continuing to view engagement as potentially polarizing and risky. Yet well-managed communities offer safe learning environments that contribute positively to an organization’s brand and culture, with no associated risk. This then is the opportunity for all organizations who hope to thrive in the digital era – and current community leaders are showing us the way.” — Shannon Abram
Activating Communities & Engagement Leadership
What are the heck communities made for? In a 1-1 conversation with a global chief learning officer of a large organization, we reflected on communities of practice and learning communities.
Community of practice enables behaviour change as activities are unleashed and done within them. We make sense and decide better. Within learning communities, we share and hand over content, stories and experiences. We activate our superpowers and wings. We have each other’s back and peer support as we bounce back and go onward and upwards. A learning community becomes powerful when it becomes a community of practice as resources are activated, and the action continues.
The way we think, behave and do is part of engagement leadership. Work as interactions, as Esko Kilpi said. We are part of different networks. There is a shift from audience to co-creators. Passive to active.
A catalyst for new connections and coherence is leadership in communities. We are pulling people together instead of pushing. It is about targets, not brands, but hearts, souls, participants of creators. We expand sensemaking from executives and experts to everyone. The pandemic challenges a lot how we work together, bond and build trust together. Digital communities are hard to engage because we are all remote, stressed and overloaded.
What can we do? 1. Adapting our systemic leadership, i.e. to the principle of complex adaptive systems. 2. Bringing digital diversity: using asynced chats and wikis, not just Zoom, to reinvent conversations. 3. Paying attention to our online presence – how you show up matters a lot and show how you contribute as a digital global citizen.
“How to maintain engagement with your community? How do you dance with complexity?”
Introducing the Upcoming Community Series
Based on my experience, education, curation and thinking, stay tuned for a series of blog posts on the art and discipline of community management.
- October: Learning Community Management
- November: Learning Program Management
- December: Future Skills and Communities
Do you reflect on the purpose of your community to enhance its potential?
What does inspire you in your community?
What insight do you learn from it?
What do you think of the work you did with your crew in your community?
What can you do together now and in the future?