Unity, harmony, and diversity.
First things first, choose whether or not you want to help out an existing community or begin building one. If you’re not sure, do not fret! There are some questions you can begin asking yourself that applies to both new and existing communities.
What is your audience’s background? What demand are you addressing?
Are you targeting computer science students? What year students? Do they want help setting up a personal site? Do they want to bunch of small intros to various Azure products or to focus on one main topic?
What are some existing solutions? What is your approach? What support do you currently have or will require? What are challenges or obstacles that you might encounter?
Are there already events happening? Do you want to host events or do an online setup (tutorials, posts, etc.)? How accessible will your solution be?
How are you or how will you bring people together? How can you validate this solution? How will you measure your progress?
Hint: There are no right or wrong answers! Every community has different needs, but how you answer these questions will determine it’s path and how you will coordinate it.
If you are able to answer the above, the where and when will follow!
Building your community overview:
- Find allies & team members
- Invite them to a meeting and brainstorm!
- Define your mission
- This would include asking the who, what, and how questions above. Practice summarizing your mission in 30-60 seconds so you can pitch it to anyone.
- Develop content
- Choose topics and be specific. Rely on the many online resources for help and inspiration (for example MVA). Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Invite guest speakers or share an article you found online. (Day #4 will be more specific – it’ll be on how to build content!)
- This will be your biggest obstacle. Finding how to connect with your audience is important. Mailing lists, posters, Facebook groups, Facebook Pages, classroom announcements, word of mouth, etc. Find out what works best for your community.
- Reach out
Leverage any existing resources and any communities with a similar vision as yours, that you could potentially partner up with. Again, you don’t need to do everything yourself!
- Another difficult obstacle sometimes. Try to see if any societies or department funding is available. Plan a simple pitch for your initiative, explain where the money is needed, and how the event benefits students. But just know that you can have great events without the need for money! (Day #5 we will talk about event planning.)
- Get feedback
- Make sure to listen to your community. If you’re hosting a workshop, are you making the content available online afterward? Are the day and times of your events convenient for the majority of people? Is your content too advanced or too novice?
- Measure, re-evaluate, and adapt
- Set small goals. Maybe you just want to do your first workshop or maybe you want to increase attendees from 25 to 50 participants. Measure your progress, evaluate why you can’t reach out to those 50 students and adapt. That is where the feedback will come in handy. (Day #6 we will talk about measuring success.)
- A lot of hard work is involved in community building, so don’t forget to take a step back and reward yourself (and your team!). Here are some reasons to celebrate: hosted your first event, a new member joined, you received an appreciation letter, etc. Sometimes it’s the small details that make a big difference.
It is important that whatever you do ensure that your events and overall community provide an open and welcoming environment for all :).