A while back I came across MY CMGR’s Google Hangout about Building a community from scratch. It’s a great watch and has some amazing insights.
And during a discussion the other week during one of the internal workshops that I was running, we had a few people that where in the same situations
As MY Cmgr said “So many times new community facilitators are put in a position where they must build the community from scratch. It can be a daunting challenge, but also an amazing experience that provides a feeling of reward.”
So what did we do?
Well we hosted an Online Peer Assist in the Online Facilitators Community to help those new to starting an online community.
Below is a summary of some of the great responses and pieces of advice that would be worth while using when you starting a community from scratch.
- Start with a small enthusiastic user base and then growing it slowly…don’t aim to get hundreds of people involved straight away as its more difficult to form a real sense of community that way.
- Start with a need – have people approached you for help? Do you need help with something yourself? Are there others in your professional networks that also have an interest in the area of work? Once you’ve got your small group who understand the benefit of working together and supporting each other around a common purpose and theme, their enthusiasm will help you grow and develop things.
- Form a clear purpose of where you’d like the group to head and have a clear set of objectives to achieve. If all the group members feel like they are working towards something tangible then it’s far easier to communicate with your members (and build your membership.)
- Piggy back on any face to face events and mention the idea of the community, the purpose and if you can the WWIFM for them joining.
- In the early days you may need to think of incentives to encourage content contribution and participation – these don’t need to necessarily cost anything. Perhaps it’s plenty of encouragement, thanks and showcasing of the contribution (sometimes it might be chocolate though!). 😉
- You can use online ways to build the relationships, for example, sending out group messages, getting the group in a bit of an ice-breaker in the forum and online events
- Set up a welcome area in the forum for people to virtually introduce themselves. This is a great way to get people to make their first contribution…
- Use the announcement function a lot! I change it about once every three days. It points members to relevant material; it keeps the front page of your group dynamic and gives a reason for your members to return to the group
- Send out a weekly group message from the admin area of the group that rounds up all the activity. I ask proactive questions to try and catch my members attention
- Use the IDEAS tab to gain insight about what the members would like to see in the future for the group.
- Try a Knowledge Market Place where you ask people what one or two things they want from the community and one or two things they can offer. You get to find out who the go to people are and what everyone is struggling with and allows you to start building that relationship, especially when can match a want with an offer
- Look for focussed succinct question on a particular hot issue of the day that can draw people in.
- You can’t do big announcements and launches everyday but if you select a few things that are your big ticket things to really shout about it definitely helps increase member numbers and engagement.
- Interject some “fun” into people’s working life then the results dramatically positive and so a great way of building engagement online.
- Plan some concrete examples of what will be shared in the community – new legislation, an early release of a publication, a senior figure answering questions through a hot seat. I’ve found that with the best will in the world, it’s hard to get people motivated with a reasonably generic intention to ‘share knowledge and best practice’.
- Keep feeding content into the group as much as you can so that people can see its being used often.
- Build it around a project, so you already have a defined focus, and roughly knowing who the audience is.
- People, who have found a benefit to joining, will frequently come back, such as when they find a document to copy rather than writing their own. And communicate the benefits to them for example: Want to find out whets going on, visit the community. Want a copy of the documents from the conference, go to the community. Need to ask a question, go to the community. This has meant the community has developed quite quickly and there is now a lot of sharing of ideas and Q & A’s which has saved days of time, thereby making the time investment worth it. It has had the added benefit of reducing telephone and email project support queries.
- Have content written for a few weeks ahead, so I know I always have something to put online. This means when day to day work suddenly gets busy, I know I still have something new to put on my group, which takes the pressure off a bit.
- Interviews with members have proved useful as they focus on one area so we can refer to them when answering people’s questions.
- Even with a completely new community you’re likely to be aware of some potential members? Speak to them directly and get them on board early.
- Ask people stuff. Most folk like to talk about themselves 🙂
A big thank you to: Lesley, Alex, John, Rebecca, Jamie, Michelle and Liz.
A gone well, not gone well is a quick and useful tool to get candid feedback at the end of an event or activity. It allows all participants to say which aspects of an event or activity worked and which didn’t in an open and accepting atmosphere.
When to use a gone well, not gone well
This tool is a useful way to close a session and provides an opportunity to discuss the event. It is especially useful in getting people to express more critical comments in a relaxed way.
It helps facilitators and organisers of events to gather information that will help them do better next time.
How to run a gone well, not gone well?
This is a facilitated session to get feedback and requires a flipchart to record the information. The flip chart is divided down the middle into two columns: ‘Gone well’ and ‘Not gone well’.
The facilitator asks the group to comment on anything to do with the event that went well or not so well.
This could include content, delivery style, catering, room layout, discussion topics, materials used, plus whatever people want to raise in relation to the day.
All positive and negative comments are written into the respective columns on the flipchart.
Thanks to Erica Hurley at http://www.ki-network.org/jm/index.php
People can use a peer assist to gather knowledge and insight from other teams before embarking on a project or activity. It partners those seeking assistance – ‘receivers’ –with a peer or group of peers who have expertise in a desired area.
A peer assist can last from an hour to a full day depending on the size of the project.
Advantages of using a peer assist?
Talking to experienced peers about the best way to approach new projects saves time and money and avoids repetition of mistakes. It also creates strong links across teams and relationships between people.
How to run a peer assist?
A simple method that works well involves of the following steps:
- Appoint a facilitator
- Appoint someone from outside the team who will ensure the participants achieve their outcomes.
- Select the participants
- Choose participants who have diverse knowledge, skills, and experience. There is no hard and fast rule about minimum or maximum numbers but the right participants are particularly important.
This is done by dividing the meeting time into four parts:
- Clarify purpose –The receivers present the background and objectives of the project or task they are about to begin. They should also say what they hope to achieve in the peer assist.
- Encourage the peers to ask questions and give feedback – The peers discuss the receiver’s situation and share ideas and experiences. The receivers should simply listen.
- Analyse what’s been heard – This part is for the receivers to analyse and reflect on what they have learned and to examine options. The peers should take a back seat.
- Present the feedback and agree actions – The peers present their feedback to the receivers’ analysis and answer any further questions.
Collison C. and Parcell G., 2001, Learning to Fly: Practical Knowledge Management From Leading and Learning Organizations, Oxford: Capstone. 2004.
ISBN: 1841125091 2nd Edition
The Community Charter clarifies for its members the general framework necessary for a successful launch, cultivation, and growth of the group. The charter includes the group’s purpose, benefits, guidelines, and resource commitments.
Describes why the group exists. It is short and designed to capture both hearts and minds and encourages ownership within the community.
Explains the group benefits and is key is assisting member to make time to participate in the group but also in allowing them to explain to their managers the reasons why they are participating. You also need to show “what success looks like”, and any appropriate impact measures
Explain what your Code of conduct is. Will there be strong and defined rules or more casual guidelines and agreements? Do you expect any confidentiality issues? Do members have to agree to a “Terms of Service” or other form of agreement before becoming members?
What type of role do you need in the community these can be based on the type of community you are looking to develop e.g. Helping, Best Practice, Knowledge Stewarding or Innovation
|Roles||Helping Community||Best Practice||Knowledge Stewarding||Innovation|
|Subject Matter Experts||X||X||X|
Thank to Erica Hurley at http://www.ki-network.org/jm/index.php
Your community plan (not strategy) should be specific detailed but flexible. It should be a step by step set of actions you can use to develop your online community.
The community plan should contain
- Who is responsible for the action
- The people that you’re going to approach.
- How you are going to reach them
- What you’re going to tell them.
- How you will convert new members into participants.
- How you will grow the group.
- What content you will produce.
- What you are measuring.
Your plan must be specific. It should be clear who is responsible for what and by which date.
You can break most activates into three sections
- Hotseats, Conference’s, Teleconference, Launch events, Demonstrations, and Webinars,
- Newsletters, Blog posting, uploading of fresh content (seeding), continual promotion of the community , ongoing communications, invitations, forums and marketing
Day to Day
- Accepting and rejecting members, Training and support, FAQ’s, Moderation, Weeding and Polls
These simple templates let you focus and plan activities for your community over a period of time, constantly keeping the flow throughout the online community
|Activity Type||Month 1||Month 2||Month 3|
|Day to day activities|
When a member requests to join your online group, they receive some kind of welcome email. These are pretty standard across the board – they thank the member for registering. In many online groups, that’s all the emails say. What a waste!but why go to all the effort of attracting new members if they don’t contribute to the community?
Some groups customise these messages to some extent. Some urge members to introduce themselves and some that remind the new member of the group guidelines. You can do much better.
You want to make contributing to your group irresistible. Don’t expect to write the acceptance message and leave it at that for years to come. See the acceptance message as something that is constantly evolving – just like your group. Draw attention to fantastic content, great members and irresistible discussions. Keep it up to date and relevant.
Here’s an example
|Hi (Name)Thank you for joining our group – it’s great to have you as a member. You can get started right away by clicking the link below and introducing yourself. Say hi, tell us about yourself or why you decided to join. What you choose to say is up to you!(link)
We have got some great conversations going on right now that I think you’ll love. Feel free to take a look and get involved – it would be great to hear your thoughts:
Forum Discussion 1 (link)
Forum Discussion 2 (link)
My name is (Your full name). I’m the group facilitator and it’s my job to help build and develop this community by encouraging members to get involved and share their ideas and opinions. If I can be of any help, or if you have any feedback or suggestions, drop me an email at any time: (Your email address) or you can connect with me via my profile(link) where you can instant message me if you have any questions
Other members are always about to offer a helping hand, too. (Names of members) love to offer new members guidance. Feel free to drop them a line any time you like.
Thanks again for joining us. I look forward to seeing you get involved in the community!
(Your full name)
Yes it takes effort, but if you can lure in a new member and get more activity and engagement from them, its effort that will pay off.
Don’t waste this opportunity. Acceptance messages can really help get more members active and involved in your community. Put the extra effort in and you’ll see what a difference they can make.
Thanks to Martin Reed at http://www.communityspark.com
- Identify key knowledge domains
- Encourage a common language to facilitate knowledge benchmarking
- Provides a quick visual representation of levels of expertise / experience in the organisation
- Connects shares with learners
- Identifies knowledge gaps in the organisation
- Starting point for knowledge sharing and dialogue
Like all good knowledge work, you need to think carefully about the key knowledge and practices that you need for success and who needs to know it:
- Identify the audience
- Create the self assessment tool, involving stakeholders in the process
- Distribute to audience and collate results in excel
- Report back result (but think carefully about how to do this)
- Create space for knowledge share and stories
- Plan for action – what techniques can you use to start to extract value from what the river tells you?
What happens next?
- Hold a knowledge café with the group
- Use it as a diagnostic tool to define learning and development needs
- Use results to identify opportunities for peer assists
- As well as sharing key documents, is there an opportunity for the ‘experts’ to present their story at a workshop?
- Are there case studies / stories that should be captured