March 26, 2021

Creating a community container

Danielle Maveal
If you can’t create an entire digital community garden, how about a container?




The best community builders are often just trying to keep up with their members — building supporting structures, but not getting in the way! 

To think about how to get started, keep a close eye on:

  1. Who shows up and what roles they start to naturally take 
  2. What content sparks conversation and collaboration
  3. How members start to splinter off and self-organize 
  4. What your members ask for next

Any of the ideas below could make a great lean community initiative or “MVC” (minimum viable community).

Let’s dive in.

What does a community container look like?


Remember, small communities can make a huge impact.

“Almost all the valuable work done in most major communities is undertaken by a small group of committed members who have developed close relationships with the team.”

— Richard Millington, The Powerful Case For Brands To Build Smaller, Less-Engaged, Online Communities


I’ve just launched a community container, something smaller in scope and less resource intensive, but still quite valuable for a group of people. I’m thinking of this as a pop-up community: a 4-week accountability group with the goal of giving 12 people additional support and energy as we end a tough year. This is a very manageable endeavor that gets me closer to the people I’m writing content and building tools for, but isn’t something I will need to commit to for more than a few weeks. (Though I would be happy to, if it’s a great community program-member fit!)

What ways can you bring people together and start building connections between members?



One-off or recurring events


New to online events, but want to impress attendees? Try a platform like Icebreaker.video or Toasty.ai. Here’s a handy event hosting guide from Icebreaker.

Recurring events or meetups take more dedication, but you’ll see community bonds form and grow in strength when you bring people together repeatedly. 

Examples

https://twitter.com/anthilemoon/status/1326219367290458113


  1. Silent Book Club aka Introvert Happy Hour

  1. Icebreaker.video’s templates help you get a happy hour, virtual networking event, or a group gratitude game off the ground in a few clicks! 

Social Events 

If you, your organization, or brand has a social following, starting with Instagram Lives or Twitter chats could be a great way to see how people gather around you and what topics get them connecting. 

Examples: 

  1. #EthicalHour holds a Twitter chat every week, prompting discussions between their over 20k Twitter followers. 
  1. Christina Tosi holds a Bake Club live on Instagram every Monday. 

Shared resource


This can be as small as a shared Google doc on a topic, or as big as a multi-day unconference

Examples

  1. Founder Library - This library of resources was built by contributors who live for helping founders and the startup ecosystem. Bringing people together to co-create is a great way to create a pop-up community of purpose. 
  2. Yeniverse - A free resource for community builders made by community builders, hosted on Notion.
  3. Check out Fabricating Serendipity (aka Roam Cafe) by Kahlil Corazo, an experimental learning meetup, aiming to make learning more like community play. 

Member directory


You can set up a member directory pretty quickly in Airtable. This taps into a community building fundamental: stories. Allowing members to tell their stories, and then reach out, is a great way to start community building.

Examples


Femstreet - Check out how Femstreet started helping readers get to know each other with this simple tool. 


Single-channel Messaging Tool 


Before launching a community on Slack, Circle, or Discord, try a single-channel app like WhatsApp or Telegram — or even create a Google group! See how a small group uses this new messaging channel, and as bonds grow, you’ll know when it’s time to spring for a more intense set up. Here’s a guide on how to use Telegram for community building

A yearly ritual


At Etsy we held a yearly Craft Party. This was an event that invited anyone to celebrate handmade and Etsy with us. You didn’t need to be an Etsy seller, an Etsy buyer, an Etsy group leader, a community leader –– all were invited to throw a party for their local communities, in any way they wanted, to happen on the same day, year over year. Anyone with over a certain number of RSVPs would get a digital or physical party kit. This event took very little to organize for such a huge impact. 

The new year is the perfect time for a yearly ritual! Gather people to create their yearly goals, set intentions, make vision boards, or hold a gift circle.  


Feeling energized? Try a few containers and you’ll come up with the perfect configuration for your digital community garden. 


Example

IndieHacker’s women’s group just launched with a monthly meetup, accountability groups, an IndieHackers space, a newsletter, and a Slack channel (requested by the group).

As this group grows, the right platforms, formats, content, and engagement strategies will bubble up naturally. The next step is understanding what will best serve the group's mission, what will form the strongest connections, and what will lead to transformation, and what resources are at hand to run these initiatives.  

Good luck out there! I challenge you to take the plunge and bring people together.
—Danielle Maveal