Welcoming Members Of The Community
The idea of a sense of community was first introduced by McMillan and Chavis in 1986, who defined it as a multifaceted concept comprising four key elements. Let us briefly examine these elements to better understand what constitutes a sense of community.
The first element is membership, which defines who is part of the community and who is not. Membership signifies the value people place on belonging and being identified as a member. Just like fan clubs with their badges and symbols, communities often have their own markers of membership. The second element is influence, which reflects the belief that one’s voice matters within the community. In a thriving community, when you speak, others listen and often act upon your advice. It is equally important to create an environment where members feel heard and valued. Additionally, allowing other members to influence you fosters a sense of inclusivity and respect for differing perspectives.
The third element is the fulfillment of needs. People join communities to satisfy one or more needs they have. For instance, in a community of practice, individuals seek to enhance their professional skills and knowledge. If these needs are not met, members are likely to leave. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that your community consistently provides relevant and valuable content to meet the needs of its members. The fourth and final element is emotional connection. This aspect encompasses shared history, shared participation, and a deep sense of connection between members. While emotional connection might be more intangible compared to the other elements, it plays a vital role in maintaining a sense of community. Creating opportunities for members to bond and get to know each other on a personal level is crucial. Water cooler gatherings, regular social events, and celebrating personal milestones are examples of fostering emotional connections within a community.
Now, you may be wondering why a sense of community is so important. A sense of community is a fundamental characteristic of successful communities, defined as those that are active, engaged, and attract regular contributions from their members. It is the glue that holds a community together, driving its ongoing sustainability and growth. A strong sense of community cultivates loyalty, participation, and a collective commitment to the community’s purpose and goals. So, how do we foster a sense of community? Let us explore practical recommendations for each of the four elements we discussed. To enhance membership, it is essential to be clear about who the community is for and set clear membership requirements. Whether it is limited to employees and contractors of an organization or open to external partners and institutions, defining your target audience is crucial. However, remember to remain nimble as the community’s scope and audience may need to evolve over time.
Regarding influence, ensure that being a member guarantees the opportunity to voice opinions and ideas. Create an inclusive environment where every member feels welcome and safe to contribute. Valuing the input of others and providing platforms for meaningful participation can foster a strong sense of community. To address the fulfillment of needs, regularly assess member satisfaction through surveys and interviews. Monitor the content and activities provided by the community to ensure they remain relevant, current, and valuable. By meeting the needs of your members, you increase their engagement and satisfaction, ensuring the community’s longevity. Lastly, to strengthen emotional connections, go beyond fulfilling professional and technical needs. Provide occasions for members to get to know each other on a personal level.
Now as I reflect on these insights, I realize that building a sense of community requires intentionality, adaptability, and genuine care for its members. It is through the active cultivation of membership, influence, fulfillment of needs, and emotional connection that we create an environment where individuals can thrive and contribute their best. By fostering a sense of community, we lay the groundwork for a dynamic, engaged, and resilient collective, capable of achieving remarkable outcomes together.
-Kyle Bernard Lubaton, ISM