Six Steps to Creating an Authentic Community
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
This is the 3rd of a 5 post series on how authentic communities can contribute to our sense of belonging. Previously, I wrote about finding real belonging and offered a taxonomy for communities.
Missteps in community building turn the “community” into a loosely connected affinity group which has fleeting impact and provides little value to its members. In contrast, by virtue of their deliberate design, what I call Authentic Communities, unlock a deeper sense of belonging. But how?
Here are six steps to creating a healthy authentic community:
Create a community brand that attracts the right people: One of the central tenets to an Authentic Community is conscious exclusivity. A strong brand attracts the right people as much as it repels the wrong people. Membership should be defined: be specific about who the community is for (e.g., CEOs; cyclists of all levels) and the expectations (e.g., 10 hours per year; contribution).
Tell a story that pulls people in: Authentic Communities should have shared values, passions, and interests. The story should be a siren’s call for the members you want to attract. It should signal the interests and values of desired community members.
Design spaces that allow people to be themselves: The community space (virtual, offline, or hybrid) where members gather should foster the interactions that are specific to the community. This means intentionally considering how to encourage members to let their guards down and be vulnerable with one another, necessary for creating intimacy and, thus, commitment.
Staff the community with people that are aligned to it: Members should experience the community at every point in their journey, including as they interact with leadership, hosts, or staff members. This means either having existing members well-versed in the culture as the “point” people or ensuring that the staff is trained on the brand.
Welcome new members in: Your community should have an entrance so when members cross the “threshold”, they feel the shift and know they have arrived. Craft the onboarding and returning membership welcoming experience with on-brand rituals.
Roll out programs that align to members’ needs: An Authentic Community must be nurtured and provided for to keep members engaged and give them a reason to keep coming back. Craft the right programming by identifying member needs, wants, and interests. The ultimate community has member-led programming, too, because that’s a signal there’s buy-in.
Being intentional about how you create your community ensures that the investment in community building is worthwhile for all involved. For examples about what this looks like in practice in, see my post on creating welcoming spaces.