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Barry McDonald
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Barry McDonald
March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

The Community Building Toolbox (and why you'll need more than a hammer)

VP of Community, Barry McDonald, shares his thoughts on community building

Do you ever find yourself borderline obsessed with the thought of building communities? Well, you're not alone. Lately, I've been contemplating the arsenal of resources and skills we need to create resilient and supported communities.

PAPER-THIN METAPHOR ALERT!!!

Picture this: a community as a house, and the tools we use to construct that house as a toolbox. Stick with me here; it's going to make sense, promise.

Why a house, you ask? Because a house is more than just bricks and mortar; it's where people come together to live, learn, cry, laugh, share, and care. It's a protective structure that allows people to come and go but remains a constant source of shelter.

Now, let's talk about the tools in our toolbox. Too often, we fall into the trap of relying heavily on just one tool – let's call it the hammer. Much like a favourite tool, I've noticed that many community builders gravitate towards a single method, often events, and label it as community building. While events are crucial and can be a cornerstone, relying solely on them is like using only a hammer to build a house. Sure, it might work to a small extent, but to construct something robust, you'll need more than just a hammer. You'll need nails, a saw, measuring tape, and a drill – the essentials.

(I won't dive into the metaphor of being the Swiss Army knife of community building today, but it's tempting, isn't it?)

So, yes, events are fantastic, but for a truly robust community, you need to employ a variety of tools. Consider an online platform, engagement strategy, signposting, onboarding techniques, feedback loops, face-to-face interactions, and facilitating introductions, among many others. And think about how to use these tools to encourage community rich in diversity.

Think of your community toolbox as a diverse set of instruments that, when used together, create something greater. Over the years, I've realised that every community builder brings their own expertise with each tool. Like building a good house, it takes more than just an experienced joiner (that's a Scottish term for a carpenter for any international readers!); you'll need the skills of an electrician, plumber, gardener, decorator, and more. It's a team effort.

So, let's keep building – not just with our favourite hammer but with every tool in the box. Embrace the quirky-looking adjustable spanner-type thing; you never know when it might come in handy. After all, building a thriving community is an art, and the more tools you have at your disposal, the grander your masterpiece will be.

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