I. Brief Summary
The premise of the book is how to cultivate a community. Just like how you water plants, you have to water communities to keep it alive. It is crucial to remember you are working with living, breathing human beings. The goal is to ask less from the community and do more with them. The secret to getting people together is building your community with people, not for them. Building a community means incorporating more listening, invite more participation and developing leaders. Amateurs try to manage a community, but great leaders create more leaders. Distributing ownership is an ultimate piece of building, growing and maintaining a community. The book shares some amazing stories on how people inspired and built communities, which are not shared in my notes.
II. Big Ideas
The author writes and share their ideas on how to kick the tires on building a robust community.
Spark the flame:
- To spark a fire, you need to gather kindling. Likewise, to start your community, you need to get your people together. Although communities, feel magical , they won't come together by magic. If you want to spark your community, you'll need to first pinpoint your people. Answering who and why are crucial in setting the tone and direction of the community. The original leader should start with a clear who, then craft a why with that who in mind. This will determine the shared purpose. It could be running, basketball or an online gaming community. Purpose can mean many things to different people. Shared purpose could be creating value or it could be making an impact or making a change. In early days, communities feel homogenous. So, how do you diversify? It is by bridging and bonding. Communities bond and bridge across different dimensions. It is not “either-or” categories. Bridging can be across gender, age or geography but can also bond through ideology.
- By now you have gathered kindling. It is time to realize what your community loves doing together. A shared activity that the members benefit from. It could be reading together or exercising together. It could also be confessing together. This brings a huge relief to members because it may be challenging to share those things outside of the group. Make your purpose loud with your members. Encourage people to participate from start. Stop thinking about your community as just an audience. Instead, treat these people as collaborators. It is indeed not a single player game. Repeat these messages during the gatherings. Repeat activities. Repeating set the stage for members to deepen their relationships and for community to gain momentum. Pay attention to feedback and try to guage your people's interest. If no one is participating, your purpose is not reasonating, and perhaps it is not a community. If what you do as a group amplifies what members experiences alone, you are on your way to sparking a community.
- People join communities to build relationships. It is about people. The richer the one-on-one connections between members, the stronger the community. Collaboration between people can happen in digital or physical space. The goal is to get people talking to each other. Besides space, give your members prompts and structure to remove barriers. Prompts encourage people to share for the first time. Structure keeps conversation meaningful. Having guidelines and rules should be part of code of conduct. Moderators will ensure the code of conduct is not being violated. This makes it safe space for conflict.
Stroke the fire:
- The missing ingredient in many communities is dedication. The challenge is to make sure your people stick together. A sign of vibrant community is that new members join because they want to. They need to be excited about the shared purpose. This kind of passion cannot be fabricated or forced. You cannot push potential members through a marketing funnel, expecting them to do what you want them to do. Instead of push, create a pull. Craft your original story. As story communicates values shared by those whom you hope to motivate to act. This story should be shared during one-on-one conversations with strangers and newcomers. Remember, you cannot force people to spread the word. Instead, figure how to make it easier for them to do so on their own terms. As the members participate in shared activities, find a way to share these simple narratives with others. Collect shareable assets (pictures, videos, etc) from your community members to inspire others. At this point, you have acted as a storytelling catalyst. Now put a spotlight on your members and make their efforts and participation count. Build a culture of reciprocity with your storytelling. Share these stories to inspire others to join the fun. Bringing people together and inspiring them is a meaningful work.
- Cultivate identity and pride by creating badges, pins, memberships, gear. This allows members to differentiate from the crowd. Be a steward of the visuals, rituals, and languages that your people will use to shape their collective identity and bond. Those bonds lay the groundwork for ambitious ways of working together down the line.
- Don't rely on your instincts, track certain metrics, collect the right information, and persistently ask right questions. This will help you understand if your growing community is sticking together. The best place to start is by paying attention to who keeps showing up. Gathering info is not a crime as long as you are being mindful. The data you collect is not soulless numbers but it shows you human behavior. A balanced combination of measurement and listening will give you understanding you need to keep acting in the best interest of an ever-changing community. Look for hand-raisers. These are active participants and most valuable collectors. These will be homegrown leaders. As leaders, you will also make mistakes. When that happens, do not go hiding behind curtains. Make your mistakes public, ask for forgiveness, be transparent and collaborate with members on how to move forward. Pay attention, listen and ask for feedback.
Pass the torch:
- Spread out ownership by passing down the torch. Community building is not a single player game. Empower others and get out of their way. Now you have data on who is actively participating and raising their hands. This is your opportunity to empower them as leaders. This is a secret to growing a community. It is not about management, but rather developing your members into leaders. While you may be the original leader, trusting others to take over is often a challenge. Don't get protective, controlling or paranoid. Don't worry about having the same standards. Learn to trust these leaders. Shift the mindset from stoking the fire to passing the torch. Your community depends on it. If your community depends on a lone leader, it is more at risk of collapse in the face of uncertainty and a challenging world. Honor those committed and potential leaders if you want to make an impact and broaden its reach.
- Supercharge your leaders by balancing structure and freedom. With structure, new leaders gain confidence. With freedom, they embrace ownership. Map out the journey and weekly milestones by using Post-its. Eliminate what is not important from the structure. A capable leader can find his or her own way. Instead supercharge them with valuable activities. The method of mapping activities is a blend of journey mapping from the field of user experience and value stream mapping from the lean thinking business methodology. Give your keys entrusting them to figure out how to execute. Engineering can teach a lot on problem solving. The key is to work systematically: first evaluate, then improve. A process driven mindset reveals just how many opportunities we have to supercharge the work of others.
- Celebrations mobilize around where to head next, give the tanks a much-needed refill, and reflect on what the community has accomplished. Honoring changer-makers, action-takers and members will revitalize the group and supercharge your fans.
- Fires can't be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. — Balwin
- If you want to show that your community is alive and vibrant, you'll need to maintain a steady pulse.
- Pride is a captivating energy.
- Authentic, shared ownership of the group's identity only fuels a community's fire.
- A community is a living organism. It's either declining or improving; there's no steady-state in a community. —Jennifer Sampson
- Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. — Simone Weil
- Catalyst are as rare as they are potent.
- New leaders breathe life into a community. Embrace process to figure out how to give them the support that they need, every step of the way.
- Celebrations are festive moments that revitalize a group.
- The dream of a peaceful society to me is still the dream of the potluck supper. The society in which all can contribute, and all can find friendship. — Ursula Franklin