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How the right values and strategy help shape our communities

How important is having the right values in your community? Do you have a common vision? How do you know when you are meeting your community’s needs?

Our community member’s time is precious, with their attention constantly divided our communities need to be useful and relevant. With the right strategy, we put community members at the heart of everything we do. It creates a direction for us to work toward allowing us to test and adapt our approach.

During Jisc’s internal community manager training, I helped our community managers consider what direction their community takes and how they can create the right space.

Common community characteristics and values

In an earlier training module, we identified some common community characteristics.

A picture with various post its covering different community characteristics. Includes shared values, nurturing, 2-way support, a cause or challenge, governance and leadership

A community comes together through shared belief and values. By uniting members through making a change or tackling a challenge. The space must be safe, where members are nurtured along their journey, enabling peer-to-peer support. Lastly, community needs structure and leadership to keep it on track.

Building the right culture

Considering these characteristics, we can build a culture that creates opportunities for everyone to bond. The right culture creates habits and routines where we build trust by connecting individuals, putting members at ease to ask questions, and allowing them to be vulnerable. A great culture means there is enough common ground to deepen relationships even with varied opinions.

Community strategy 101

A successful community is centered about its members, so the values and culture must be a reflection of them. These insights must be considered to help form our community strategy.

So what are the steps to create a community strategy?

  • Desk research: what is the current situation?

Avoid assumptions. Who are the industry leaders and what are the trends? If there are similar groups, where and how do they meet? Analyse this by creating a PESTLE (political, environmental, societal, technological, legal, and economical factors).

Who is your target audience and what do you know about them?

What is the priority for the organisation hosting the community group? Do the needs align?

And lastly, use the desk research to highlight the community’s unique proposition. What can you offer that no one else does?

  • Community purpose, what are you trying to achieve and for who?

Create a purpose that clearly and simply explains the motivation of your community. Why does your community exists? And most importantly, why does it matter to potential community members?

  • Community objectives, measurable milestones to know when the community fulfills its purpose.

Clearly defined objective help guide the community. What behaviours are you expecting from your community members? Is your community a place to enable the sharing of great practice? To reduce the amount of customer query tickets or to provide specialist advice?

  • Community tactics, specific actions you take to implement the strategy.

Tactics are what you plan to do to amplify the behaviours and emotion you’re trying to evoke. We can view our community tactics in different categories. There are tactics to grow a community, encourage engagement, host events, to getting ownership. Tactics deserves it’s own post which will cover in a later blog series.

  • Evaluation and impact, how will you know what you accomplish?

What measurements can you use, to know whether your community is on or off track? Engagement metrics like activity, posts, document views. But also, what effect is the activity having on the community as a whole and individual members? Consider organising light touch surveys during your events, with annual survey’s to get more detail.

Consider these five planning aspects whether you are starting a new community or needing to take a new approach. We invest our time in community as we know how much richness bringing people together creates. With the right values at the heart of a community and its strategy, our communities create honest and open discussions, where people share to learn and connect.

So what does your community value? Whether its honesty, friendliness, giving expert advice or the chance for exploration, make sure it what the community is focused on providing.


While you’re here… our nominations for the Community Champions 2024 are still open.

Take a moment to celebrate those who facilitate communities in the education and research sector by making a nomination. Nominations close 17 Dec ’23.

Looking for support? We would love to connect with you and find out more. Let us know about what your education or research community is doing.


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