The Problem With Community
Building community takes time and effort. The problem is that few are willing to do what it takes, and in a sustained manner, to be successful. What does that mean, exactly? Well, a successful community needs a driver — someone to get things started, to keep things running. Look to the success of any community program and you’ll find one or more drivers. For example, look at the Boy Scouts. Many scouting programs at the local level can point to one or two individuals who go out of their way to ensure that the boys are engaged, requirements are being met, and that the boys are progressing through the program and achievements to the best of their abilities. These people are connectors, network drivers, and in most instances type-A personalities that constantly push, that take action, that continually look for ways that they can improve and make a difference.
It takes effort. And the problem with effort is that you cannot, generally speaking, pass it off on others, or hope that the sheer momentum of the group or the activity will simply propel things forward. In my own experience, co-founding a non-profit that was merged with another non-profit, it was painful to watch our years of hard work flittered away because the new organization did not put the time and effort into maintaining, much less expand on, the success we had built. They thought that the community would grow itself. Not only did it not grow, but it quite rapidly deteriorated without constant renewal, without someone stoking the fire.
At the SharePoint Saturday Richmond (#SPSRIC) event this past weekend, I presented a session on building the SharePoint community that walked through a number of ideas for how an individual or an organization can create or extend community, whether internally (as with a user group) or externally. Having run several user groups and through my experience as a manager and an evangelist, I was able to share some of my experiences and ideas that helped grow communities that I was a part of.
My slides are available here:
Networking science has shown that at the heart of every network (or community) there is at least one influencer who is planning, managing, convincing, initiating, collaborating, compelling, and doing many other descriptive activities. I’m not going to sugar-coat it — building a community takes a lot of energy. That’s why it often takes a certain personality type to do it. But the personal and professional rewards are well-worth the effort.