24th Jul 2023
3 Min Read

Communities of purpose. Questions to ask before you build

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
Digital Transformation

I often speak about communities of purpose - smaller, focused groups of people that do amazing things in online spaces.

But something that comes up a lot when I speak to clients is how they struggle to create or manifest this purpose in employee communities.

Often, they’ll create communities based on existing structures. The ‘Manchester office’ group or the ‘Marketing Team Chat’ are standard examples.

I can see the logic. But what are these groups for, really?

What does a good outcome look like in a ‘Marketing Team chat’, and how would you know when the community is doing what you want them to do there?

If you don’t know, then why would your employees get involved?

Bear with me …

I was recently in a small town in the West of Germany called Düren. While I was there, I went into town during lunch for ’some bits’. The city centre was sparse; the town seemed empty and a bit sad.

I went back a few days later, around the same time. Why? There was a food market on and my partner and I wanted to check it out and wanted to cook the family something delicious.

The market there transformed the experience; not only were there loads of people, but they also had a purpose in being there; picking up fresh food, saving some euros purchasing direct from farmers and enjoying a lively community experience.

You see, locals had a purpose to be in town that day; fresh, locally produced and reasonably priced food for themselves and their families. As a result, community was created.

People brought together through purpose creates community

None of this is rocket science - communities have orbited purposeful places in the ‘real world’ for thousands of years - but we often miss this vital piece when we create purposeful places online.

When we design a new online community at work, we must ask ourselves, what’s the purpose?

Why would any of our employees ‘go there’?

Why would they sign up for group updates?

What’s in it for them, and where’s the feel-good factor too?

Is it to drive change in our attitudes to diversity?

Is it to understand why the CEO has decided to open a new office in Spain and how I can get involved myself?

Is it to simply share and enjoy movie recommendations and connect on social topics? Is it to discover new learning or job experiences?

Keep purpose right at the centre of your communities; it’ll make their value immediately obvious and attract the right kind of attention and growth.

What burgeoning communities do you have in your business that could do with a helping hand, or what purpose led communities do you think you could intrude to support your business ambitions around growth, culture and employee experience?

If you’d like help exploring those themes, you know where I am.

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