Here you’ll find ideas and observations regarding facilitation, community design, process design, and automation that enables the human touch.
The processes underpinning a collaborative learning community tend to be more administratively complex than we anticipate. Don’t be afraid of the complexity. Be clear about it. Clarity lends itself to effective management. That makes our role as hosts more sustainable—and enjoyable.
Scheduling meetings can be a headache. That’s particularly true when the composition of the group keeps changing. Process automation can help makes things easy and clear while offering a reasonable degree of flexibility for hosts and participants alike.
A well-designed assessment with timely, personalized feedback can spark self-reflection and stimulate conversation. Without automation, though, providing personalized feedback can be prohibitively time-consuming.
Good questions catalyze great conversations. That said, identifying, storing, recalling, and selecting good discussion questions and then convening the right people to discuss them at the right time aren’t trivial tasks. We’re using AI-enabled and no-code tools such as Fireflies.ai, Airtable, Softr, Mighty Networks, and Zapier to help us.
An “inside-out” growth strategy is conducive to the cultivation of relationships and trust essential to a collaborative community. However, membership growth is likely to be frustratingly slow for several years before accelerating due to the dynamics of referral. The good news is that an inside-out strategy doesn’t require intensive investment on the part of the host. However, it does require patience and persistence. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint.
Fabian Pfortmüller is a Swiss community builder based in Amsterdam. He’s an experienced entrepreneur, acknowledged innovator, and prolific writer. I had the opportunity to speak with Fabian about cultivating communities from the inside-out at the speed of trust.
We don’t exclusively engage in video conferencing or teleconferencing or live text chat or asynchronous text messaging or in-person conversations. Our task is to be thoughtful regarding which mode or modes are right for the purpose and people at hand. Video conferencing may be the better choice if the focus is on relationship building and when there are more than two or three participants.
A community’s purpose provides direction and delineates boundaries. Nevertheless, its members’ motivation to invest their energy stems from their desire to achieve their individual goals. As Fabian Pfortmüller notes, “We can either embrace [that fact] and design for it or ignore it (and pay the price in the form of superficial engagement.”
Increasingly, being smart means collaborating with others who are smart in complementary ways. By curating connections and facilitating productive conversations, we’re trying to help smart individuals become even smarter together.
Gareth Pronovost of GAP Consulting is the expert I turn to for help with Airtable, the no-code database application. If you are hosting a membership community, you should be considering how to use Airtable and other no-code tools to streamline and automate your workflows. I spoke with Gareth about process automation, the no-code movement, his Airtable Mastermind community, and working through the suck when creating content that demonstrates your consulting expertise.
Participation in your community will be unequal and inequitable. That’s because the insight that is co-produced by members through their investment of time and social capital is a public good. As such, it’s subject to the free rider problem. However, you can make participation more equal through well-designed reward systems that feature peer recognition.
The degree to which status and one’s ability to contribute are perceived to be coupled can inhibit the participation of relatively low-status persons in collaborative communities. That’s a problem because complex challenges are best tackled by cognitively diverse teams. That suffers when the conversation is limited to people who are high-performers along similar dimensions. If we wish to cultivate valuable and equitable communities, we need to find ways to help people identify and articulate the unique value they bring to the conversation.