Before the pandemic, when we took a flight or onboarded a boat to travel from point A to B, we could feel the experience from the crew ship. On the same wavelength does this experience feel like going to the hospital when we join, are onboarded, welcomed, introduce ourselves, and are supported in a community of practice?
A community journey and experience kick start before the community is launched through an invite, resources sent in advance before the experience of an online platform and an engagement program or a learning program. For example, the invite to join a safe and trusted place to gather and do with fellow professionals focused on a location, field, profession, industry, or around shared values can be the starting point activated by the community host.
Before the invite, we may have met the host in person or online to get to know the person and the willingness to start a community for a specific purpose. Is it to learn together? To make sense together of a field, a theme, the world. To co-create? To support each other’s back?
Once we have joined the community, we may be welcomed, introduce ourselves, get an onboarding kit, and start connecting with fellow members on the platform with profiles, asynchronous chats, and many events – from workshops, live chats, meetups, hackathons, Q&A, coaching sessions, labs.
Another step is the community program. To keep levelling up our professional and personal practices and even change them. To know better ourselves and collectively, to find questions and answers on what we have deep inside us, inside out. To meet members on the same or divergent paths in their journeys, projects, and problems to make sense, activate or let go of.
A community program is shaped before, during and after it is run and hosted by the community program manager or many if there is a team behind-the-scenes and in the trenches. So, what does shape a community program? One that is appealing, engaging, and tailored to the member’s needs and contributions? Made by the community program management team and the community members for the members. I noticed from my experience in producing or participating in a few community programs – whether it is a coaching program, an ambassador program, a learning program – that they often have the following elements:
A website, a brochure with the goal, the program, the conditions, the modalities, the price, the host, and the type of participants expected.
An introductory blog post to clarify the why, what, when, where, how, who and what’s in it for me.
A promotional LinkedIn post or tweet to share the tagline and gain traction.
A short video to present the program by the community director.
Those assets can trigger in cascade:
Curiosity was aroused by the program’s benefits, skills, conditions, schedule, and pedagogy.
Willingness to join the cohort and meet the host, the white wolf in the discipline.
Desire to join the program and platform + to get the handbook if one is provided.
Engagement to do the community activities and contribute through curation and production of resources, giving and receiving feedback, questions, and thoughts from members by sharing, commenting, and connecting inside and outside the community platform.
Next level contribution to the community through co-creation of products and services with the community team.
Recognition of peers because you earned the sesame after completing the program. The certification or document to complete the program is optional. As well as badges.
Behind the community scene, the light guide, the energy of the host, time to program and publish the activities, the strategy thought through before the program’s launch, the test and learned of the program, the coherence and weaving of the activities, resources, nudges, questions. This is an important work that a community host did and thought deeply about. But, without clarity and concretisation of all those elements, it can be a kind of artisanal and freestyle way to host a community program one cohort at a time.
The design of a community program doesn’t have to follow the steps of a learning program design: analysing, designing, deploying, evaluating. Why? Because qualitative, tailored, and human engagement needs to be kept in mind when creating a community or engagement program, even if it is blurred with a learning program to develop skills, capabilities, and mindsets. What are the steps to design an engaging and tailored community program?
Spotting the needs and emotions of the members. What are the signals, social cues, and patterns?
Curating and weaving existing resources, activities, and questions and producing new ones if relevant and needed. What is your community’s state of content curation, production, and management?
Designing and testing the conditions and online space to make things happen for the host and the members. How can we evaluate and pick the right community platform for the environment and conditions so that the hosting team and members can thrive, feel safe, heard and seen?
Unleashing one week and a day at a time a learning /community activity with a few resources and one question to nudge members to reflect on the activity they did, on themselves or to share their practices and thoughts with the members. What does the content, event, and engagement programming look like?
Reviewing on our own, collectively, and in the future, the takeaways, lessons learned, and progress documented through tools, templates, and participation in the program.
What could be out of control? And it is ok—90% of lurkers, 10% of active members.
The pace and frequency of posts from the members on the online platform. They may do it when they want, when they can, how they want, anywhere there want.
How do members use the tools you suggest them to use. Some may prefer to go offline and in-person to meet and interact with other members through the event. Others may add video or audio calls and usages of the enterprise social network to keep on with the asynchronous chat and live to share. Some may use none of them.
The energy, tone and weather in your community are unpredictable. At the same time, it may depend on your content, event, and engagement programming. The more members felt seen and heard, the more they may love your community and community team to promote your community and be highly engaged in contributing to it.
Did you enjoy the post? Then, check out the Community Series.