Sometimes despite our best efforts we are unable to find a community to connect to. This could be due to location, our schedule, or not finding something that fits our interests. In this case, our need for community doesn’t change. Instead, we just need to go about finding this connection in a different. One way to do that is to create our own community. If we have an interest in something that there isn’t already a community for, it’s likely that there are others who share this same interest. If this sounds like you, then here are some steps that you can take to develop your own community.
Identify the Community You Want
First things first. The best way to start the process of developing a community is to figure out what you want. What interest, hobby, or idea would you like your community to revolve around? What is the connection that you desire to make with others who share your interests? Really think about and write down all of the ideas that you have. At this phase just brainstorm. Once you have done that, reread what you wrote and highlight the parts that really speak to what the community will be about.
Ask for Help
Now that you have an idea about the community you want to create, it’s a good time to ask for help. This may include reaching out to a friend, family member, or any other person who you think is also interested in this type of community. Think about an individual who has strengths in the areas that you don’t. For example, you might be great with more global ideas but have difficulty with details. In this case you’ll want to connect with someone who is detail oriented. Remember, this is an idea that is important to you, so you want to choose someone who values it in the same way that you do.
Develop a Plan
Now that you have a partner, you can work together to really flesh out the idea for your community. Think about what you’ll need to facilitate the connection with others. Think about what you want people to get out of this community. What type of atmosphere would you like to create? How frequently would you like to be able to connect with the community? This is where the details are important. You want to create a well-formed structure so that the type of community you are envisioning can flourish inside of it.
Find a Space
Now that you have a plan for your community, you need to find a place for everyone to meet. This could either be a physical or virtual space. For example, you might be really passionate about knitting and want to start a knitting group. You could decide to approach a local yarn or fabric store and see if they had space available that you could use. If you are a college student looking to start a club, you might approach your university student center to see what space they may have. If you desire to host an online community there are several sites that can facilitate this. You may decide to create a Yahoo, Linkedin, or Facebook group, where members are able to post pictures, share tips, and ideas about the projects they are creating. The most important thing is to find the space that works best for the vision that you have for your community.
Pick a Start Date
Now this part can be scary. You’ve developed this great plan for a community group but at this stage it is still just and idea. Picking a start date is important, because this is the step that moves us from the idea into action. It has the ability to make this wonderful idea real.
Advertise Your New Community
You’ve done all of this hard work to plan and you’ve set a start date. Now it’s time to advertise the presence of this new community experience. This part can be tricky and may cause you to feel some discomfort because it requires you to get outside of your comfort zone. When you think about advertising for this new community, think about the places that you go and interest you. Remember, you are targeting people who share this same interest and are probably somewhat similar to you. If you are very active in online groups, then you’ll want to advertise there. If you are a college student, than you’ll want to advertise to other students. Putting up flyers in places that you like to go and that are near the location of this new gathering is a great thing. Be sure to include on your materials (both virtual and on paper) how to contact you to connect with this new group.
Be Patient & Flexible
Remember to be patient with yourself and with the process. All new ideas take time to develop and time to catch on. You may find that you reach your start date and you’ve only heard from one or two people or none at all! Don’t give-up. It’s okay to make a new start date; to make tweaks and changes to your plan. A community is a living breathing thing, so we need to be flexible and willing to make adjustments as necessary.
Another thing that you can do is to begin to advertise your new community after you’ve developed the plan. By doing this you can begin to build anticipation for this new experience that people will be able to be a part of. You may even attract others who are interested in helping with the development of this experience.
This is just one way to go about creating the community you want to see. I know this might seem like a lot of steps. Depending on what type of people you want to connect with however, your process may be a very simplified version of the above. If developing a community feels right for you, make sure you only pursue it in an area that you are passionate about. Being the facilitator of any community or group experience can be a lot of work. Most of us have several commitments we have to attend to on a daily basis. Asses your energy level, your needs, and your availability and make the choice that’s right for you.
If you have experience in staring a new community or group either locally or online, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.