Do you currently manage a community?
Yes, I am the manager of the Sue Ryder Online Community. Sue Ryder is a UK charity that provides hospice care, and the Online Community is a peer support forum for people affected by terminal illness and bereavement. It’s open to anyone, not just those whose loved ones were cared for in one of our hospices. The community is two years old, and I’ve been on board since shortly after launch. Two years on, we are getting over 500 posts a month and more than 90% of users say the site helps them feel less alone with their experiences.
What career path brought you to where you are now?
I’ve been working in the not-for-profit sector since 2010. It’s important to me to work in jobs that make a difference to people’s lives. I started out in a mainly web content role, which also included some community management tasks, like running the Facebook page and moderating comments on news stories and blogs.
From there, I got a job in the community team on a large cancer support community, which I loved because I could use my existing skills, while working really closely with service users and being able to see first-hand the impact of my work. I learned loads about community management, and the particular challenges that come with working with health communities that deal with sensitive issues.
I took my current role because I wanted the challenge of taking on the responsibility of running a community myself, and of growing a brand new community.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Before the online community, the charity didn’t have any national services – it was all offline, local services based in or around our hospices. So running an online-only service with a nationwide audience (or potentially international, since there’s no reason people outside the UK can’t join) was something very new.
Being the only person in the Online Community team, and with no national services team to work with, it can be a little isolating. But fortunately the organisation is really behind the community, and I get lots of support from healthcare staff on important issues like safeguarding.
What’s the best job you ever had that wasn’t in community management and does it inform your CM work in any way?
My community management jobs have definitely been the best jobs I’ve had!
But one thing that’s informed my work was a volunteer role that I used to have. When I was a student, I volunteered for Nightline, which is a student peer support service where students can ring up or drop in for non-judgemental listening and support. The training for the role taught us active listening, and emphasised the fact that people often aren’t looking for advice and suggestions – they want an outlet for their emotions and they want to feel heard.
That’s so relevant for the Sue Ryder Online Community. The issues that our users come to talk about have no easy fix, but being part of the community helps them feel less alone in what they are going through.