Engineering, maintaining, organizing…

February 2, 2020 — August 9, 2023

social graph
Figure 1: 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).

Figure 2: Image: CSCCE

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

1 Governance

See community governance.

2 Incoming

3 References

Baldassarri, and Grossman. 2013. The Effect of Group Attachment and Social Position on Prosocial Behavior. Evidence from Lab-in-the-Field Experiments.” Edited by Angel Sánchez. PLoS ONE.
Baron. 2005. So Right It’s Wrong: Groupthink and the Ubiquitous Nature of Polarized Group Decision Making.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology.
Bergstrom. 2002. Evolution of Social Behavior: Individual and Group Selection.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives.
Bowles. 2001. Individual Interactions, Group Conflicts, and the Evolution of Preferences.” Social Dynamics.
Boyd, and Richerson. 1992. Punishment Allows the Evolution of Cooperation (or Anything Else) in Sizable Groups.” Ethology and Sociobiology.
Cheng, Tracy, and Henrich. 2010. Pride, Personality, and the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Social Status.” Evolution and Human Behavior.
Couzin, Ioannou, Demirel, et al. 2011. Uninformed Individuals Promote Democratic Consensus in Animal Groups.” Science.
Dunbar. 1993. Coevolution of Neocortex Size, Group Size and Language in Humans.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Henrich, and Boyd. 1998. The Evolution of Conformist Transmission and the Emergence of Between-Group Differences.” Evolution and Human Behavior.
Horst, Kirman, and Teschl. 2007. Changing Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups.” Economics Working Paper 0078.
Klug, and Bagrow. 2016. Understanding the Group Dynamics and Success of Teams.” Royal Society Open Science.
Maner. 2017. Dominance and Prestige: A Tale of Two Hierarchies.” Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Mäs, Flache, Takács, et al. 2013. In the Short Term We Divide, in the Long Term We Unite: Demographic Crisscrossing and the Effects of Faultlines on Subgroup Polarization.” Organization Science.
Nowak. 2006. Five Rules for the Evolution of Cooperation.” Science.
Olson. 2009. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups.
ScottHanson, and ScottHanson. 2005. The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community.
Trouche, Sander, and Mercier. 2014. Arguments, More Than Confidence, Explain the Good Performance of Reasoning Groups.” SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2431710.
van den Bergh, and Gowdy. 2009. A Group Selection Perspective on Economic Behavior, Institutions and Organizations.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.
van der Post, Franz, and Laland. 2016. Skill Learning and the Evolution of Social Learning Mechanisms.” BMC Evolutionary Biology.
Woodley, and Pratt. 2020. The CSCCE Community Participation Model – A Framework to Describe Member Engagement and Information Flow in STEM Communities.”


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