Have a place to meetCommunity is created by people, so an obvious thing to do is gather people in one location. Depending on the type of community, this gathering may be physical or virtual.
Where the members of a community are co-located, it makes sense to physically be in the same place and exchange ideas in person. Organisations run team meetings and training sessions for different groupings of their staff. MeetUp groups run extra-curricular events that gather professionals of a single discipline who work in the same city.
Where the members of a community are spread nationally or internationally, there are a variety of software applications that can be used to create a virtual meeting place. Video conferencing is a norm in geographically distributed organisations. The weekend testing community use skype as a platform for testers from across the globe to participate in interactive testing challenges. There is an active community of software testers on Twitter.
Sometimes place begins serendipitously and then requires structure to be applied. A conversation with a stranger at a birthday party may be the genesis of a new community, which will then require an ongoing location.
Discover a shared viewCommunity is created by conversation. By talking to people we determine whether we share a set of principles, a purpose, or ideas. We discover a shared view.
In organisations, discovery of a shared view is often a facilitated activity. A team will have a leader by virtue of organisational structure. This person may have a degree of ownership in setting direction, then be tasked with bringing those around them on a journey. Training, workshops and presentations are the tools that these people can use to align people to a shared view.
Outside the workplace, discovery of a shared view is usually more organic. I have experienced connection with an individual that lead to an existing community of which I had no prior knowledge.
Establish a common dialectOne way for the uninitiated to distinguish a community is that the people within it have adopted a common set of terms. The dialect of community is important for its identity. Language is a tool we use to present a unified view of collective ideas.
For people within the community, words help to create a sense of belonging. There is comfort in being able to take shortcuts in our conversation with words that evoke a common response, factory school, or words that shortcut a known debate, testing vs. checking.
I prefer dialect that emerges colloquially, or through thinking and debate. This is the language that blooms from a seed - the useful terms will grow and the useless will wither and die. There is also a place for dialect that is enforced through organisational culture or memorising a glossary, which may be useful to disseminate information through a change of season.
Foster leadershipPeople join a community based on the ideas and vision presented by its most visible members. Individuals who are charismatic and communicate their ideas with passion will draw others towards them. People will want to be part of a community that includes these leaders.
People stay in a community based on the continued opportunities it presents for their personal development. Creating an environment where people can continue to learn new skills or create new connections will keep them engaged.
I think it is important to identify inclusive paths for progression within a professional community that make people feel they are in the “midst of a sphere of possibility”. Those who are in leadership roles should offer support to those who are looking to take a step forward, and encourage those who are capable but wary.
I believe that a healthy community has a popular mentoring initiative that gives people at all layers of community the ability to demonstrate and extend their abilities.
Is community really as simple as that? What would you add?