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Circle Editorial Team

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8 min read

How to build a stronger community: Your proven framework
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Do you worry about your community breaking down? Not sure how to deal with conflict or ensure members abide by your community values? Want to learn how to build a stronger community by understanding a world-renowned, proven framework?

Sascha Mombartz, co-author of the Community Canvas, a framework for community building used by over 100K community builders, gave our Circle members an incredible training workshop teaching them how to build a stronger community.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that shows you how to use Sascha’s community framework, which is built around belonging, trust, and resilience to create a stronger community.

If that’s something you’re interested in learning, just keep reading!

The 3 elements of every strong community

Communities are complex and require a lot of moving parts to function. Understanding the three base elements that hold your community together: Belonging, trust, and resilience will help you build a stronger community.

Let’s dive deeper into each element and how they impact your community.

1. Belonging

The concept of belonging is threefold:

You belong to the community: Everyone belongs to a community, whether that’s through your location, where you work, or your hobbies. We all meet people through shared interests, experiences, and situations by circumstance or choice.

The community belongs to you: By contributing to the community, it belongs to you somehow. Through co-creation, you invest time and energy into the communities that serve you, giving you a stake in them.

You have a longing for community: Humans are social beings with an inherent need for community. Some studies have even shown that prolonged loneliness can affect humans the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People need others to thrive, and we achieve much more when we work together.

2. Trust

Trust is the tissue that connects each one of us. We’re all complex beings and have different experiences, shortcomings, and skills – and it’s only when we know more about each other that we can build that trust.

The more we can connect through those differences and similarities, the stronger our relationships, trust, and communities become.

So, how do we build this trust?

  • Proximity: The closer we are to one another, the more opportunities we have to engage in conversations and learn more about each other.
  • Similarity: The more things we have in common, the easier it is to connect and trust one another.
  • Directness: By engaging in open, honest, and direct communication with each other, we can connect better through shared experiences.
  • Reciprocity: Through equal levels of giving and taking in a relationship, we trust the other person to be there when we need them.

3. Resilience

Communities are complex systems with many interconnected pieces continuously evolving as relationships and people evolve. So, how do you keep building a strong community through these changes?

It’s all about resilience.

Resilience refers to many rules, processes, and management sides of your community and is integral in building a strong community. There are two aspects to resilience you should consider to build community strength.

  • Preventative: These are measures you put in place to keep your community running smoothly and prevent issues from happening. They can be community member guides, dos and don’ts, and a list of responsibilities for members.
  • Corrective: What happens if someone doesn’t follow the rules, and how do you reprimand and forgive them? It’s crucial to have corrective protocols in place, should there be a breach of trust in your community, so you can swiftly regain control.

Helpful concepts for building a strong community

Focusing on your community network systems, purpose, and balance can strengthen your community.

Network

Your community most likely won’t fall into a single community network type. So, the important thing to note here is what network type you need for different aspects of your community to function properly and stay strong.

  • Centralized: While information moves very fast in this system, and you can get things done more quickly, if everyone is relying on just one person, then you lose a significant level of resilience in the community.
  • Decentralized: Information moves quickly through the community network in a decentralized model, providing better reach and making it a more resilient system for communities.
  • Distributed: Information moves a bit slower through a distributed network, but you will reach everyone eventually through more connections, making this a highly resilient approach.

Purpose

We invite you to think about the purpose of your community. Both the external purpose (what you offer to the world) and the internal purpose of your community members (why they are part of the community. )

Knowing your internal and external purpose will help you build a stronger community, as it is the driving force behind your actions. See an example of both purpose types below.

Internal purpose: Greenpeace members have an internal purpose of participating in a movement to help the planet.
External purpose: Greenpeace has a strong external purpose of helping the planet through environmental activism.

Balance

Everything is interconnected in a community and based on belonging, trust, and resilience. Getting these three elements in sync is what will help you build a stronger community.

Try narrowing down every facet of your community into these three areas to see where you might need to find balance.

  • Aspects of belonging: New members joining, people contributing to the community, and retaining members long-term.
  • Aspects of trust: Members sharing experiences, helping each other, and finding value in the community.
  • Aspects of resilience: Your community’s reputation, specific capabilities and processes, and size.

7 design principles that create stronger communities

Now that you have a good understanding of what trust, belonging, and resilience means in a community and some helpful concepts surrounding community strength, let’s take a look at the critical design principles that create stronger communities.

1. People follow people

In the Solomon Asch 1950’s conformity social experiment, several people walk into an elevator and face the wrong way. Eventually, all the test subjects who were unaware of the experiment turned to face the wrong way, too – even though this is not the social norm.

You see, people imitate others to fit in. And it can be helpful to think about this when building a stronger community. That’s why having rules in place is so important. They tell people how to behave, co-create effectively, and maintain a positive, inspiring, and valuable space.

2. We build better together

Encouraging co-creation is one of the most important ways to build a stronger community. Without co-creation, the responsibility to produce compelling content lies solely on the founding members and community leaders, which can become tiresome and lead to dips in quality.

A more sustainable practice is to help community members help each other by encouraging discussions, giving them shared spaces to connect, and empowering members to create their own content and share it with the community.

3. Informality is key

People who show up for formal events and community gatherings might have their guard up and feel less open.

But if you keep events (online and offline) light, simple, and informal, your community members will find it easier to relax and forge stronger connections, inherently building a stronger community.

4. Consistency forms trust

Suppose events, lives, discussions, etc., are sporadic in your community. In that case, members will have difficulty engaging, co-creating, and communicating with each other, as they don’t know what to expect.

Keeping member events and processes consistent gives people more trust and helps reinforce routine in your community. Consistency helps members know what to expect when specific events or discussions happen and how they can get involved.

5. Reinforce community values

Values are the threads that hold communities together. Actively enforce your community values with your members to keep your community strong and engaged. Lead by example and show members how to embody your values through guides and case studies.

6. Conflicts can be opportunities

If there is conflict within your community, don’t shy away from it or ignore it. The conflict is trying to tell you something. See it as an opportunity to figure out why something isn’t working, take action, and improve to build a stronger community.

7. Members don’t just want content

Your members aren’t just in your community for content; they want to build connections and network with others.

Communities that prioritize these connections by facilitating member meet and greets, get-togethers, and Q&As can help satisfy people’s craving to build their social and professional groups.

Remember: Asking others questions are the best ways to start conversations and get people talking.

Time to put the Community Canvas framework into action!

You’ve reached the end of today’s guide, and we truly hope you feel more confident about building a stronger community using this framework.

From staying consistent and nurturing trust to encouraging co-creation and analyzing your community network, there are many ways you can start building that community strength today!

Why not give Sascha’s Community Canvas a go today and see how much stronger your community becomes? We’d like to thank Sascha for the insightful advice he explored in his training workshop, and we can’t wait for the next one!

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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