Engineering, maintaining, organizing…

Building community in the workshop

How to build local community, whatever that is. For the moment I think I am more interested in a subset of this question, which is designing movements which is about designing replicating communities with an end-goal.

Flagship community-building consultancy People and Company have a lot to say in this area. I have not read enough of their material to know how evidential it is, but they certainly pitch well. See the Get Together Book, podcast, resources site and substack, which package community building for the dotcom era. Their case study on substack, (especially since substack ultimately bought People and Company.1

An infographic-friendly presentation is Nick DeWilde’s The Social Architecture of Impactful Communities.

To motivate initial interactions, you’ll want to design your community to incentivize members with their first hit of value soon after they sign up. T his value should arrive in a form that fulfills whatever need caused them to join in the first place. For example, I recently joined a writing group called Compound that has a couple of great magic moments:

  1. When you initially join the Slack group, the founders invite you to introduce yourself and share your publication. This leads to warm welcomes, new Twitter followers, and newsletter subscribers (leveraging the dopamine hits that social platforms are good at delivering).
  2. During onboarding, the founders explain that the core activity of the group is editing. You post your work and get a bunch of insightful comments. The first time you post something to the group and end up with a Google doc full of insightful comments, you can feel the value that the community has to offer.When a community’s magic moment is effective, new members will crave more of this value. You want them to learn, early on, that the key to unlocking more value for themselves is to create it for others.

He also recommends

Friday for Future have a political-action-driven set of resources.

Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement studies this stuff, e.g. Woodley and Pratt (2020).

Image: CSCCE

They publish, e.g. Guides to community maintenance on slack.


See community governance.


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  1. For a critique of the limits of the Substack model, see How Substack Became Milquetoast.↩︎

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