My mind is spinning in many directions and I'm so grateful we have this FeverBee community to really grab on to actionable suggestions. Here's my sticky situation.
I'm helping a friend explore the possibilities with changing the nature of his 100 in-person community groups to make the core interaction online instead of offline. A large part of that is to lessen the operational and administrative resources required to run the movement as a whole. And if we can do that, then we can even add more community groups without overwhelming the staff at "community headquarters" (which is lightly staffed as is).
My brain hurts trying to state a plan for how each community would continue to create value among themselves if they didn't regularly meet in-person. And it pains me to recommend a shift from offline to online because my personal experience has been offline gatherings are where the best magic happens.
Here's my main question: Do you have case studies, resources, or a unique perspective on how to maintain value for community participants in a major shift from offline to online interaction?
Here's some context to help:
- Each community is based around a city of 50,000 people or more in a Western country.
- Each city has a volunteer community leader (CL) in charge of organizing in-person meetups and facilitating conversation in the Facebook group dedicated to that city. Some larger Facebook groups have up to 1,500 members.
- About half of the CLs aren't fulfilling their duty to have a monthly meetup in their city. I've toyed with recommending loosening the requirement to host a meetup only quarterly, but I believe we'd have the same issue of chasing down CLs who aren't meeting their obligations regardless of the frequency.
- About 1 out of every 50 Facebook group members actually attends an in-person meetup. And the increased social capital or practical resources exchanged at any meetup are negligible in some cases.
With that context, which of these statements feel compelling to you without seeing data to back them up?
- More stories, resources, and local events would be shared in each Facebook group if the focus was less about coordinating a future in-person meetup and more about decentralized support for each member.
- Highlighting the existing expertise of specific members will be better in a Facebook post to hundreds than an in-person demonstration to maybe just a handful of people.
- The majority of members will feel a deeper sense of ownership if there aren't two tiers of members – those who go to meetups and those who don't.
- Some of the busier or more introverted CLs would stay on longer and be more active in their Facebook group if they weren't required to host in-person meetups. Optional meetups coordinated by anyone in the group for any number of people would still be encouraged.
- Finding new CLs for a city or even recruiting co-CLs for a city would be an easier sell without the added work to have in-person meetups.
- Peer support among CLs (we have a Facebook group for them) would be easier and more relatable for online interactions compared to offline interactions.
Thanks in advance for getting my head out of the clouds and onto solid ground! Feel free to offer up other benefits you can see from moving the primary interaction from offline to online. And let me know if you need more info about anything I've touched on. I'm keeping it intentionally light to start with.