This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
~ Version 3.0 ~
You, the student
Last Updated Thursday, November 15, 2012
The Challenges of Building a Community
Building a new community is a complicated, messy thing. Your goals and ideas for the community sound groundbreaking when you recite them to yourself in the shower, but that "sure to succeed" attitude is hard to maintain when you struggle to share your master plan with others.
"I've got big goals, but nobody seems to understand what the hell I'm talking about."
The frustration tenses your muscles.
"Maybe I’m just talking to the wrong people...but I don’t know who else to talk to or where to find them."
Zoom ahead into a future where you've managed to find people who are interested in your community. Now you have a new problem. People chime-in and agree with you, and sometimes even suggest their own ideas. But when the time comes for rubber to meet the road, you're the only one taking action. You second guess yourself, thinking:
"I don't want to go through all of this hard work if nobody else cares enough to pitch in or show up."
It feels like you’ve been through hardest parts, but you still don’t have much to show for it as you’d hoped. You've exhausted your best resources to get this community started, but very few (if any) of your attempts have felt like the successes you’d envisioned. Doubt and anxiety set in.
"This might be my last chance to get this right. If it doesn't work, I don't know what else to do."
You’ve bottled lightning...but your supply won’t last forever
As the community matures, you find yourself too often as a “lone captain” sailing the ship. Your active and happy community has gotten to the point where it’s only active and happy when you’re involved. The fact that they “needed” you was gratifying at one point (and sometimes, it still is). But you’ve started to question how much longer you can keep this up before burning out.
"This is a lot of fun, but I don't know how long I can maintain the momentum."
You feel a hint of burnout after a successful event, as you shuffle across the room, getting the room ready for tomorrow. You wish to yourself that someone would have stayed to help tidy up, even if it was only just so you had someone to talk to about how great the event was. But you’re known as the person who “gets things done.” Specifically, people know they can come to you for help. Every time you meet, you greet them with a smile and they smile back... right before they ask for your help with something.
“Sometimes, it feels like nothing could get done without me having a hand in it.”
When the community was younger, people seemed to care more about how they could help each other than how others could help them. People have learned that being a member of your community means access to bountiful resources, but the once-vibrant relationships between members has dulled in the face of a new “what can you do for me?” attitude.
“I love helping people, but I’m starting to feel like people take more than they give. It feels like some people only show up when they need something.”
There’s no time to rest and feel bitter. New communities are forming every day and if you miss a beat you might start losing members to competing groups. You scramble to create more events. Better events. More things for people to interact with and to participate in. How many more times can you raise the bar? You reassure yourself that things have been working out so far... but anxiety sets in when you realize that you’re not entirely sure why things work out, or if they’ll keep working out your way.
"I wish I knew why some of the things I do for the community work out great, and why other things don’t. I feel like I just keep getting lucky."
Breathing a tired sigh, you start to wonder if anyone else notices that you've been playing it safe. You don’t want to lose the magic you know the community is capable of, but you know that you can’t keep doing the same things to get there. You take a moment to be completely honest with yourself:
"I'm tired and not as excited as I used to be. But I'm afraid to change the formula. I've worked too hard to risk it all."
Wouldn’t you rather...
...lead a group of people where that “magic” spark of community burned brightly? What would it be like to have all of the support you could ever need? You’d have the knowledge that members are by your side, making things happen every day, often without you even having to ask. Your calendar is quickly filling with exciting opportunities for you and your members, but best of all everybody is focusing on the work that satisfies them most - including you. You think, “This is why I started a community in the first place.” You’re as productive & energized as you’ve ever been. Imagine having people join and experience your community every day, then use a combination of your words and their own to describe why they love being involved. Overhearing comments like “I’m so excited to join!”, “I have a friend that I really want to invite!” and “I have an idea for something I’d like to contribute!” are every day occurrences. These are members for life. Think about how great it would feel to be surrounded by successes. Sometimes those successes would come from your own hands, but often you’d be celebrating the successes of people that you’ve enabled to win. Members go out of their way to help each other, as well. Each new collaboration that emerges is built on the foundation of people who have come to know and trust one another. It feels like people really understand and appreciate each other. This community’s social economy is booming. Is yours?
The Difference Between These Scenes
Do you know the difference between someone who runs a successful, healthy community and someone who’s working themselves into the ground just to pull everything together?
They are a different kind of leader.
Community Community Community Community Community leaders provide a special kind of attention. leaders use a different set of decision making skills. leaders communicate with a certain sort of clarity. leaders play a long game, and help others do the same. leaders don’t pretend to have all of the answers.
The skills and habits needed to successfully communicate with, organize, and lead the people in a community towards a common goal are some of the hardest to learn without a lifetime of trial and error. Without these skills and habits, you find yourself spending too much time convincing and reminding. You spend a lot of time guessing and worrying. You spend more energy “fixing” than “making”. And even when you do feel the win of a success, it’s too easy to misattribute factors of your success. Success isn’t repeatable unless you know why you succeeded.
Do you see why your process is broken?
Success in community building doesn’t come from a single win. Successful communities are a slow build. Success in community building doesn’t happen overnight because success isn’t an outcome. Success is a state of being. Success occurs within a progression of repeatably effective outcomes. Applying this overarching principal to community building is the difference between leading a dream community and a living in a nightmare. There are two requirements for repeatably effective outcomes: 1. 2. A set of factors to define, “measure” and track over time A system to consistently impact those factors
Three Factors of Successful Communities
People tend to avoid defining communities because there are so many variations on the recipe. As the baseline, though, a community includes people. No people, no community. But you want to build something that is more than just a gathering of people. In order to do that, we first need to define a “higher order” of community beyond simply gathering people. This community functions more like an organism than an organization. This kind of community is more like an ecosystem than a network of shared resources. This kind of community expresses understanding amongst its members rather than relying on consensus. The three definable factors of successful communities are Participation, Connections, and Empathy. “...real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.” -Margaret J. Wheatley
How can you tell which farmer has been working in the fields and which one has been napping in the barn? The working farmers have dirt covering their boots, not just on the soles. Being on a mailing list and paying a monthly membership is like being the farmer whose boots only have dirt on the bottom. When you observe your community, you want to be able to see and “measure” the growth of participation amongst your members.
How many contacts are in your address book? How many of them have you spoken to in the last year? How many in the last month? Who in that list would you call or email if you needed something? Who in that list would you take time out of your day to spend time with even if there wasn’t a specific reason? Community connections, like participation, are only measurable when they are active. This network is alive. True relationships trump wider networks. Your member roster, Linked-in groups, spaces, events or discussion lists facilitate connections, but it’s you that must do the work to maintain them. It’s up to your community members to maintain those connections for themselves, with your help and facilitation. You want to be able to see and “measure” the growth and persistence of these connections between your members.
It’s natural for a group of people to have disagreements and misunderstandings. Empathy isn’t the lack of these rifts, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Community empathy takes place when members think about the community and the other members. This sounds deceptively simple, so don’t be fooled. When someone puts himself in the shoes of another member in order to make a decision, that’s member empathy in action. Nobody in the community, especially you the community leader, is exempt from the importance of this factor. This is why the first lesson has you take on the perspective of being a member rather than the role of being a leader. Empathy is the hardest factor to “measure”, especially over time, since so much of it happens silently. Instead, you’ll learn to recognize the “halos” of community empathy in action - and you’ll learn to encourage them. These three factors: participation, connections, and empathy are built into the core of The Community Builder Masterclass.
How You’ll Do It: The Masterclass System
The second piece of your approach to repeatably effective community building is the system that you’ll learn in this course. This system is designed to help you impact the three factors of successful communities, and along the way rewire the way you think about community leadership. This process is a mix of exercises, habits, models, and 4 distinct points of view. The process itself isn’t difficult to use - in fact, it’s quite simple to implement all of the time, in all of the communities you’re a part of - but only once you’ve had enough practice. It’s the practice portion of the process that is difficult, and that’s what this class is designed to guide you through. There are five key components to the Masterclass that will be the cornerstones of your practice. These resources are yours while you’re enrolled in the course, but because community building is a lifelong practice, you’ll have access to them well after your “graduation”. Here’s an introduction to those resources, and how to make the most of them:
1. Take-home “Lectures”
Perspective 1: You, the member
Perspective 2: You, the storyteller
Perspective 3: You, the organizer
Perspective 4: You, the facilitator
The lessons in this course correspond to four key “perspectives”, or points of view, that you'll learn and practice to use while becoming a Master Community Builder. The perspectives are interlocked, with each one building on the results of using the perspectives before it. It’s common for your personal strengths to draw you closer towards a perspective you're already comfortable with. Similarly, you’ll likely try to resist another perspective that you know will challenge you. This feeling is natural, but it’s yours to manage. Your success will come from practicing & using all of the perspectives. The “lectures” themselves are delivered via PDF (like this document) and over email. You will receive email prompts and due-dates for completing the reading assignments. In the Masterclass, you’ll read the “lectures” on your own so that we can spend our time together on exercises & discussion.
Each Perspective Produces Results
It helps to think of each perspective as a “lens” that you can switch between. It’s like putting on a different pair of glasses. While you’re getting tested for a new prescription, a doctor helps you identify weak spots in your vision. The lessons in this course provide a similar experience. Each lens provides a new focus level, and with each focus level, you gain the clarity you need to produce a new result.
1 2 3 4
You, the member
Understanding the communities you’re already connected to Describing Unfulfilled Needs
You, the storyteller
Turning Unfulfilled Needs into achievable common goals Sharing Campfire Stories
You, the organizer
Helping people stay focused on common goals Designing for & supporting a spectrum of participation
You, the facilitator
Removing roadblocks from the community’s growth
Tip: Take Real Notes Don't just read the lessons - print them out and take notes. Make highlights. Mark them up! Many PDFs have a wide right margin specially to give you room to take notes. And when you're done marking them up, snap them into a 3 ring binder for easy reference later. Get friendly with double-sided printing to save paper! This tip might sound strange, but the act of physically highlighting (with a marker, not a mouse) and writing margin notes will help you study. Your brain processes your own handwriting differently than you process printed text. As someone who hates his own handwriting, trust me, I wouldn’t recommend this if it didn’t work.
2. Submitting Your Workbook Answers
Each workbook in the Masterclass is designed to give you the opportunity to apply the lesson’s readings immediately without worrying about doing it the wrong way and causing problems in your community. This also helps you understand each perspective in a way that is practical & personal to you. The goal is not just to gain new knowledge, but to apply that knowledge directly to your real life as you continue to practice. The workbooks are a safe place to begin practice, but they are just the beginning. Completing the workbooks will not be easy, nor will the answers come quickly. This is a good thing. The pain you feel as you struggle to complete these workbooks is not unlike the pain you feel after an intense workout at a gym. You may feel sore, you may feel drained, but you will find yourself far stronger than you were before. There are no shortcuts for this kind of success. You don’t get in great shape without consistent and well-performed exercises, and you won’t become a great community leader without the same kind of discipline. The value you get out of this course is entirely proportional to the work you put in.
You might encounter a lesson or a workbook and think, “That doesn’t apply to me. I already know how to do this part.” This voice in your head is trying to sabotage you. Do not listen to it. Everything in this course is in this course for a reason. The lessons and workbooks in this class are “interlocked”, so skipping a workbook or not doing it completely because you “already know the answer,” is a sure-fire way to get lost or stuck in a later lesson. You’ll complete the workbooks by a due date and then submit them to the classroom email list for review, discussion, and coaching. Skipping the discussion over each workbook or not submitting answers to the list not only hurts your learning experience, but it takes away valuable learning experiences from the other students enrolled. Unsure of your answers? Share your struggles with the group and we’ll work through them together. Submitting something is better than submitting nothing. You might have breakthrough realizations that aren't specific to the workbook questions. Note those ideas while they’re fresh in your mind so that you can share them on the Google Group once you’re done with the homework.
3. Healthy Habit Development
Did you know that an average of 40% of the decisions you make daily aren’t actually decisions, they’re habits? Habits are “automatic decisions” that our brains are wired to make in order to make us efficient. It’s an important part of how we survive. We all know about bad habits like eating junk food and biting our fingernails. Have you ever stopped to think about your bad habits related to community building? The system you’ll learn in this course will help you create good, new habits, - replacing broken, old habits. All habits, good and bad, follow this pattern:
Cue A trigger, internal or external to you Routine An action or series of actions Reward The thing you get at the end of the routine This book is on the Masterclass Recommend Reading List bit.ly/community-builder-reading Even if you don’t buy this class, buy this book. bit.ly/power-of-habit
There’s only one way to actually embed a routine in your brain as a habit, and that is practice. You need repeated and focused practice of the right routine in between your cue and your reward.
The important thing to remember about creating and changing habits is that you must first identify your personal cues and rewards for your old routine. Only once you know your cues and rewards, you can practice a new routine between them until it becomes wired into your brain in place of the old routine. Your cues and rewards are personal to you, so we can’t tell you what they are - but we can help you find them. That means that this isn’t a “kick back, read the lessons, do the homework, chat with classmates” kind of class. It’s rigorous, challenging, and sometimes frustrating. But the payoff is bigger than “just” community building.
“Change is easy. Improvement is far more difficult” - Dr. Ferdinand Porsche
“Honestly, I didn't really know what to expect coming into the class, but...it's given me a totally different view on literally everything I'm doing.” - Conrad Decker, September 2012 Alum
Just knowing what the process is won’t help you when you’re in the heat of community building. You need to put in the practice, and build the new habits in order to kick ass. It’s not magic. Conrad put in a ton of work. You can too.
4. Email Discussion
One of the most valuable components of this course can’t be found in the lessons. It lies in the discussion which will take place in our email list during the course. The list is not for lecture, that’s what the lessons are for. The list is yours for discussions, and you don’t need to wait for one of us to start a thread about something you wish to talk about, share, discover, or explore. No points are awarded for attendance, your participation is key. The value you get out of the course is proportional to what you put into it. Think of this class as a community that you're playing an active part in building. This community’s purpose is learning together. So at ANY time, you can send an email to the Google Group with an idea or a question. Don’t stress yourself out about impressing anybody - your participation is all we need to be impressed.
A “Hidden” Lesson in the Masterclass
Listening is the most powerful talent shared by successful community builders. You need to learn to always be listening, even when the noise levels are high and the signal isn’t as obvious. Depending on what you’re used to, this course is designed to generate quite a bit of additional discussion. It may be tempting ignore the discussion and only focus on the lessons, workbooks, and your own coaching. If you choose to ignore the discussion, you will miss multiple components of the class. You will need to set aside time for reading and responding to the mailing list, but whatever you do, do not avoid it. Only you know your email habits, so you’ll need to adjust accordingly. If you need help keeping up, please ask! We’re email pros, so we can teach you some tips to help you stay involved.
5. The Alumni Community
In the final week, you’ll join the Masterclass Alumni Group and share your final workbook answers as graduates of the Community Builder Masterclass. This introduces you and your community building practice to a growing network of people who are also practicing what they’ve learned in this course. Alumni of this course are literally all over the world, so consider this a global network of peers you’ll always be connected to. The more you participate in discussions, the closer you’ll stay to these international contacts. As an alumni, you will also be invited to retake the Masterclass again in the future, any time it’s being run, for no additional charge. Taking the course a second time will reveal new, valuable insights. Think of it like returning to sharpen your blade. Alumni also receive updated lessons and supplements as they are released, so once you’ve enrolled the learning will continue for as long as you wish to participate.
Before we go any further, I want to welcome you to the Community Builder Masterclass. Any questions? Drop an email on the discussion list or email email@example.com
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.