When you hear the word community, what comes to mind?
For some, it is the local golf club, the bikers’ guild, association of truck drivers or a picture of all the families in the neighborhood gathered for a garage sale.
But, whatever your idea of community is, there’s one key ingredient in it; people who know each other and have the same interest. That’s what makes up a community — people and a communal interest.
We have endless resources scattered across the world wide web that teaches us and even outlines steps on how to identify and join a community, whether locally or online. What might not be available in large quantity are resources on how to build your own community.
I’m kidding. There are tons of resources online. In fact Microsoft Bing returned 231,000,000 Results for the keyword; “how to build a community”
I imagine, if I go further to input the the title of this article, it would also return an equivalent number of results or something within that range.
So, community is not a new word, all things being equal, it is fast becoming a buzz word if it already isn’t. This means that a lot of people are hearing the word being used and also want to know its meaning, but most importantly, there are a few who also want to know how to build a community.
NB: Anyone can build a community and there are several types of communities, however, I am going to be focusing on building relevant communities as a woman in technology.
There are a few ground rules to community building, a number of which requires deliberate commitment to achieving. A community is best built when all the effort and input to make the community succeed is not coming from one person — you.
I’d walk you through a few ground rules for community building.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE BUILDING
When we started as an organization is September 2020, one of the first things our founders did was to pitch the vision of the type of community we were set out to build.
Therefore, in building your own community, you must have a picture of what you want to build. It doesn’t have to be so clear, but at the least, you should know what the type of community you want to build is not.
Please, don’t start conjuring a name at this point🙏
- What’s the focal point of the community you want to build?
- What are we going to represent?
- How would you describe it’s members?
- Where are they and how do I find them?
- Why am I starting a community?
These are some of the questions you can ask even before venturing out as a community builder.
Simon Sinek always advices, “start with why”
Therefore, determine why you’re starting/building a community. It serves as a guiding light in the future when things might get a bit blurry.
FIND PEOPLE WITH SHARED INTEREST
The crux of having a community is the fact that is a common ground that every member of the community shares.
After defining why and what your community represents, go out in search of people with the same shared interest, people with similar values and beliefs. Whatever the community should represent should be at the fore of why you’re talking to a person about your community.
A community is only a community because people are in it; not just any people, people on the same path as you.
As a community builder, you get to decide the spectrum of people you’d love to see in your community, even when it evolves into something bigger, it shouldn’t be too faraway from the original vision.
SCOUT FOR COMMUNITY PILLARS
You can’t build a community alone, you can start, but you definitely can’t sustain it by doing everything along.
You have to have people who believe in the vision of that community that you can delegate stuff to; they becomes pillars of the community.
We are most times afraid of delegating because we believe people might not be able to do it the way we can, however, being able to trust people your community is a sign that your community is growing.
CREATE AN ENTRY POINT
Just like geographic communities have entry points that check the kind of people who come into the community, other types of communities too should have an entry point.
In the community you’re building, what are the metrics for being a part of the community?
Are you just letting anybody in?
I don’t think you should.
Imagine a community of women in cybersecurity, who do you think are the people that should be found there?
Women of course, with a degree or professional experience in cybersecurity or those who are enthused about the field. Imagine a professional track athlete being a part of that community, with no interest or background in Cybersecurity, she would find it hard connecting with people in the community.
A community fosters a communal sharing, being a part of one or creating one should get you and others to feel you’re in a place that sees you.
SELL YOUR VISION REGULARLY
A community is built on a shared vision. As someone who is out to build a community, you must ensure everyone in the community has a firm grip on the vision of the community.
This means you should plan vision casting or community bonding event into your calendar as a community.
Don’t assume people are aware or abreast with what the community represents, ensure you remind them always.
HOW DOES NETWORKING FIT INTO ALL OF THESE?
Being able to properly connect with people leveraging communication skills is basically networking. At the core of networking is finding a common ground between you and the people you want to connect with.
Networking is something we have only restricted to the corporate space when we either want to make a connection with high profile people or increase our chances of securing the next job.
If you leverage networking as a skill in community building, it means you can have people from different levels of the corporate ladder who share in your vision and believe in the viability of the community that you are building.
You might even end up building a community of women who nurture and support each other.