Yesterday I facilitated a session for my friend Caroline Halcrow who is studying what it takes for online and offline communities to grow and thrive. She has developed a set of measures of the health, liveliness, and impact of these communities and wanted to test out her theories with a group of folks responsible for setting up and running local community groups in the London area.
The issues they faced exactly mirrored those we face trying to support online communities in business, attracting people, getting the energy levels up and keeping the group active, dealing with difference and dissent, helping the community work out how to mature and become more effective.
The groups had different origins and different purposes. Those running them had different backgrounds and different motivations. But I was struck by the level of commitment and care they all showed and suggested that caring should be included in the measures. Someone has to care that these things happen and care that they succeed.
The biggest thing I took away was how we are still early days with all this, even thirty or so years in. Most people are still new to connecting purposefully online and we are still working out how to combine online and offline to best effect. What is clear though is how important it all is, how much good we can do with it, and how crucial it is that someone takes responsibility for making it happen.