Help a newbie refine a community concept


(Josh Wolf) #1

I could use some experienced perspectives on developing a community concept and thought you would be the right people to ask!

I work at Pachamama Alliance, a non-profit based in San Francisco, and am part of a team launching an online community for a global audience. Given the diversity of ways people connect with the organization, we’re not sure how to frame it.

We have an educational program that trained volunteers lead around the world, an interactive, online educational program that attracts people globally, local communities that develop around these volunteers and participants, and donors. We’re trying to figure out how to develop a concept for an online community within this existing network.

Ultimately, I think we want everybody connected to the organization in the online community - especially since people love the message of the work and want to connect with others engaged with it locally and globally - but based on what I’ve read from FeverBee, I’m aware of not making the community about the organization.

I don’t know whether it makes sense to integrate a community of place (for the local groups), action (trying to change the world), practice (for the volunteer program leaders), and interest (the general area we work in) into one.

What insights do you have from your experiences that might help inform our thinking?


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hi Josh,
In our experience, the narrower the focus of your concept is, the more likely you are to succeed. You are right when you say that the focus should be on the topic rather than the organisation, but still that topic should be clearly and tightly defined.

In Rich’s words:

[The] community will only grow if its laser focused [and] satisfies the crazy enthusiasts with unique interests. You want prospective members to think ‘finally, a community for people like me!’.

So the trick here will be to identify a small sector of your existing audience and target them based on demographics and/or psychographics to determine your two (or more) qualifiers.

e.g. Perhaps you start with a community to support existing volunteers, and once you reach establishment, branch out to engage new volunteers who evangelise to keep the cycle going.

So if you were to reverse your question, what was the initial driver to start a community? Is there a perceived challenge in your potential audience group that you are trying to solve?


(Josh Wolf) #3

Thanks, Sarah!

I do like the idea of focusing on existing volunteers, as that’s our most committed group currently and the one most likely to engage with each other. Expanding that group to include new volunteers over time seems like a logical extension.

Part of the challenge comes from the fact that there are multiple drivers for this online community and people have different ideas of what role it will fill so there is a push to do a little bit of everything all at once. I guess we should clear that up first!


(Anton) #4

One more idea - create a geographical map and integrate it a bit with your forum.
We’re trying it now and we cal already see high interest:

The setup is pretty simple, we use Google Java Script API and a Google Form to let people fill in the data for the map.

On the map markers, in info windows, add custom links to related topics/categories.


(Sarah Hawk) #5

@Stephen-Gates might be interested in what you’re doing here, given the topic of this discussion.


(Josh Wolf) #6

Integrating location information is definitely a priority for us because we find people really want to connect with others in their area. Profiles, events, and groups are (or will soon be) searchable by postal code, but we haven’t yet figured out how to map things in this soon-to-be-launched platform.

At present we have this map where people post groups and events but there is no good way to find individuals, which will hopefully be a popular feature of the new community.

Part of the impetus for my initial post is that the major volume of interest in connecting with people locally comes from participants of our online programs rather than the volunteers that help run them, so we struggle to narrowly define the community concept.


(Josh Wolf) #7

To close the loop on this one, the team here decided to create a hybrid community of interest and action. Hopefully people will talk about common interests and identify actions in that realm. Local groups will be part of the community as well, but without the same level of focus as in communities of place. Wish us luck! :slight_smile: