Strengthening an Online Community

Five of us got together yesterday to take part in an open discussion on “What environment can we create to enable people to experiment or instigate change, in a remote set-up?”. We used the Lean Coffee format, where attendees suggest at the beginning of the session those specific issues or questions they want to address, and then the group creates the roadmap for the conversation through a voting system.

All the issues suggested yesterday were connected to understanding what conditions could encourage people specifically within Virtual Team Talk to initiate experiments or projects within the group, or to feel free to call group meetings or even organise events as a collective. At the moment there are plenty of asyncronous discussions and information exchanges, but very rarely do we actually collaborate.

The discussion moved very quickly to a suggestion by Nenad:

Could we try out Donut to randomly pair up people in the group to have chats together, to facilitate (in the pure form of the work, as in, to make easy) people in the group to meet each other informally?

(The app has actually been created for organisations to enable people who don’t work together to get to know each other. Trello also has a similar process, Mr Rogers, for doing this, but using Trello, of course.)

As we were discussing the pros and cons and how it might work practically (and emotionally) within the group, Simon pulled up the app website and integrated it into our Slack.

Voilá, by the end of the meeting (should we call it “meetup” as “meeting” sounds a bit formal…?) two relatively new members to the group had set up an experiment with the aim of strengthening relationships within the group: a first step in encouraging others to try initiate “stuff” themselves.

One of the reasons for encouraging people to experiment within an online community is to bring people closer to each other through “doing” something, sharing a common, specific objective or solving a problem that’s worth solving together (I could go as far as to say, it’s a problem they can ONLY solve together).

When you have limited personal time to put into a community (a self-organised community, not a component of a marketing strategy), the only way forward is to keep experimenting, to keep trying things out, a few times, with different people.

It was during a debrief of our Internal Affair, with only Mark, Mikey and myself that we identified that we weren’t sure what we needed in order for more people in the group to take the initiative to do “stuff” involving others. That question was then taken to our next video discussion, addressed by new people and turned into action, which now involves a wider group.