When I started working at makesense’s incubator to help young entrepreneurs develop their project, one of the first topics we learned about during our on-boarding week was community. Indeed, to develop its program and extend its impact, makesense mainly relies on the power of its strong(ly engaged) community.
But, what are the 4 points that make a community, well, a community? That’s what we’ll explore together in this article.
Ready, set, swim 🏊♀️
Note: for each point I’ll share an example from Our Millennials Today (for now the community is mostly interacting on instagram). This media aims to help adulting people find their path and overcome quarter-life crisis.
1. sharing a common goal
In other words, this means that people in your community share a common vision of the world. To make sure any person wishing to join your community has understood your values – and shares them –, you can totally come up with tools like a manifesto or a strong on-boarding routine.
Sometimes it means that your community members will come and go regularly (depending on the temporality of what you offer), but it’s fine.
example: for Our Millennials Today’s community, people share both, a common pain-point and a common goal. The first being the feeling of undergoing a personal (or professional) crisis. Thus the second: wanting to find some answers to be reassured and adult more peacefully. On a larger scale, my community members are quite animated by social causes and wish for more inclusivity / equality. This is reflected in many of our discussions, whether it be online or in real life.
1.5 feeling like you belong
This one is bit of an extension of the first point. Indeed, once people have collectively defined their common WHY, comes the need to create a space of their own. This essentially means building an identity along with community values, guidelines and rituals for people to easily relate, embark and expand the community.
example: Our Millennials Today’s media relies on a peculiar vocabulary revolving around swimming as a metaphor of adulting. « Choosing a lane » means « choosing your professional orientation », « tumbling » hints for a reorientation and the community members are called (and call themselves) « swimmers » or « the swimming team ».
This, as some of the. many rituals we share in our orientation pool – going from the Monday memes to saying « hi » in the morning – contribute to creating a sense of belonging to this crew of lost-a** people in their vocational.
2. people can connect and easily exchange
For this one, the question to ask yourself is « how can my community live? what are some moments / tools or rituals that can encourage my community members to connect and/or work together? »
We can speak of either online gathering spaces (as in Discord or Slacks for more professional-themed communities) or physical places (like meet-ups)
example: for Our Millennials Today’s community, we have regular meet-ups organised for members to interact in real life and/or the possibility to interact via social networks. For the latter, I create duos that seem to either share the same questioning process or that seem to share a common experience.
3. people can learn stuff together
Having a community is cool. Being able to overcome problems together is even better. This won’t really come as a surprise, but the activities done and/or resources shared within the group should all try to align with the community’s mission for people to remain engaged.
example: Our Millennials Today first relies on a media which aim is to reassure, equip and empower our adulting swimmers to be able to question and adapt their professional lives according to their wish and needs. The tools we develop are multiform and allow everyone questioning their vision of what « having a career » means to them, whether it be meetings, podcasting, sharing their experience, etc.
example 2: firms like Lattice have totally dissociated their community with its learning activity (cf. their « University ») from their main activity in people management. This allows people to share real life situations and progress as a whole in their field of expertise – potentially becoming as well customers of the Lattice firm thanks to their expertise.
4. people’s contribution to the community is valued
Once people start contributing to your community – whatever might be the form or the amount of time/energy spent to do so by the way – it’s also your job to make them feel at home and put them under the spotlight. Indeed, without your members, there’s no community!
Many tools can come in handy for this mission. Some of them might be: certificates for them to share (if they deliver or learn specific skills), public thanks, social media posts, etc.
example: for Our Millennials Today, I share tips and experience from the members that I speak with the most. I quote them in my social posts and try to give them a strong spot. However, for my community lies the challenge of valorising people’s contributions without jeopardising their – aspiring – professional paths as some questioning/critiques on the system are sometimes a bit harsh.