Community care matters, because no man is an island and communities are about relationships, trust, and mutual value. But how do you start to create and foster a culture of care in your community?
The concept of community care has been gaining traction recently (including a LinkedIn event on community care, expertly facilitated by Rosie Sherry). In this blog I’ll explain what this important work looks like in practice, and how to foster community care in a way that is healthy and effective.
Why community care matters
Why does care involve community? Because even self care shouldn’t take place entirely in isolation. No man is an island*.
People need connection, companionship, and compassion. They need to feel heard, solve problems, and get answers. That’s why people form tribes, join communities, or create social media profiles. Good social relationships are the most consistent predictor of a happy life (according to research).
What community care looks like
What does community care mean in practice?
The first step in building communities is to not only bring people together, but create an environment where they want to stay together. Communities aren’t just places we go (like a pub or a shopping mall), but places we return to, around a topic of shared interest. They’re places where we give and receive, ask and answer, or talk and feel heard.
Community care happens when we create spaces where people feel they are in a healthy and supportive environment. This will show up differently depending on context (a professional community of practice versus a personal community of circumstance).
We can identify a healthy and supportive environment by how people feel and how they behave. For example, people feel that they are accepted for who they are, they feel able to express themselves (without toxicity or harm), or they have received helpful advice or practical support from others.
Navigating the risks of openness
When we build healthy and supportive communities, where people express support and care for one another, we will see more openness, and an increase in self-expression.
But there are risks that come with this culture of openness. People may share difficult things, including painful or personal information. This could include coming to the community for support in times of personal need or crisis.
Community professionals are helpful people and our roles are about bringing people together and supporting them. We’ll want to do what we can to help our communities.
But that doesn’t mean we’re entirely responsible for them, or for fixing every situation they face. There’s a middle ground to navigate where we offer ENOUGH care and support in the right way, AND know when to signpost or step back.
Being intentional about community care
As we grow our communities, we need to be intentional about how and why we care for others. This means that we take time to think about how the community might show support or care, and what it looks like to provide the appropriate amount of care and support.
Tools like a playbook or manual, and tactics like empowering community members can help to create and reinforce a healthy and supportive culture. We could schedule in time to show care for our communities as part of our routines.
But we must also look after ourselves, so we have the energy and focus to do the work of bringing people together. Self care is a key part of how we consistently show up in our roles, and how we can stay effective for the long term by preventing burnout.
The skills involved in community care
Caring for other people is a skillset in itself. This can involve learning about empathic communication, managing emotional labour, or setting healthy boundaries.
This work can take years to learn in its entirety (I know from experience!), but there are techniques and strategies that any community professional can learn in just a couple of hours. This can include how to listen to your community, how to handle issues safely, and how to use empathy.
Want to learn more?
Would you be interested in learning more about how to care for your community, and care for yourself at the same time?
Good Community exists to help all community professionals to thrive (not just in my specialist areas of emotional support and health). I’m keen to determine the topics that would best help you to bring people together effectively, ethically and safely.
Let me know what you’d like to learn about community care and self care by leaving a comment below, or contacting me.
*No man is an island is a famous line written by 17th century poet called John Donne, and Hemingway pinched ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ from him too. My English Literature degree comes in useful now and again…
When it comes to getting things done, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. As community managers, we want to do the best possible job for our communities and our organisations, but it can be difficult to make time for ourselves. It can be even more difficult in a profession that brings people together to push ourselves forward.
I’ve decided to tackle my own self-imposed obstacle course and get out of my own way. Are you feeling the same way?
In this blog post I’ll reveal the challengeswe face, identify some realistic ways forward and share useful resources to help you get things done and make time for self-development and self-care.
Five challenges we face
This is the biggest obstacle for many. Wanting to be the best that you can be seems so positive, but it has a dark side.
When we fall into the trap of needing our work to be perfect, we can stop trying or give up at the first hurdle.
We give up learning. We avoid anything that’s challenging. We take forever to complete a task by constantly tinkering with our work.
Or we procrastinate by trying to master ‘the secret of doing it 100% right’ and never even start. I’ve been there.
Perhaps I’m showing my age, but I remember the first time I saw cable TV and opened the channel list. Hundreds of channels beyond the five we usually had in the UK. I remember spending about an hour flicking through before heading back to 90s Top of the Pops.
When you’re facing indecision, it’s difficult to know where to start. Perhaps you’re unsure of the right decision to make or which direction to take. You may have too many ideas and too many choices.
That last one definitely resonates with me – I have a folder full of content ideas!
We don’t like to talk about fear, which is just what it wants us to do.
Many people feel that fear is the reason that we procrastinate, sink into indecision or avoid trying new things. I think there’s a lot of truth to this.
Fear of failure. Fear of criticism. Fear of consequences. Fear of the unknown.
I’ve caught myself in a fear spiral of worrying about what would happen if I did something new or different. What if it all went wrong? What if I had the wrong take? It’s such a slippery slope.
If I had a pound for every time I’d heard someone mention ‘these uncertain times’ I’d be paying for a copywriter for my blog (kidding!)
The reason why people talk about uncertainty so often is because it is true – we have experienced a lot of unpredictable change.
I’m sure we all know that COVID19 has made the world an uncertain place in our own lives; with a rapid shift to remote working and sudden changes to our plans for 2020. And 2021 …
In society, we’ve experienced several changes to the law regarding what we can do, confusion about government guidance, and a wave of ‘fake news’ about the pandemic.
No wonder we’re feeling uncertain. This extended period of changeability helps some people to thrive but for most of us, it magnifies uncertainty and makes decision making more difficult.
Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed? I don’t think it’s just me.
There has been so much to contend with. Our way of working and living may have changed permanently. We may have experienced ill health or loss. We may be concerned about what the next few months will bring. For many people, that is a lot to carry at one time. That might lead us to retreat our energies for now.
The opposite temptation is to want to do it all and to take back control. We may be keen to catch up on lost time – the books we haven’t read, the projects we couldn’t start, or the trips we couldn’t take. We push ourselves to do more. For some people this is a great way to get started. For others, if we aren’t able to sustain our energy, this takes us back to overwhelm.
Five realistic ways forward
When it comes to getting things done, it can be difficult to know where to start. I’ve found five realistic ways that have helped me to move forward with work projects and life admin. If you’re stuck at the moment, why not try one or two of the ideas below …
It took me a long time to write this post. The idea was in my head weeks ago. I kept returning to my plan – researching the best way to structure content and make my points. If my resistant and uncertain self had its way, I’d still be in draft mode, with nothing done.
When we move into action mode, we come out of a comfortable place and start testing our ideas. After a while, I really enjoy this flow state of getting things done but it takes that first kickstart to get going.
If I get stuck, I take myself back to the original idea and try another angle. The maxim ‘learn as you go’ is really helpful here as it helps to be in a mindset that is open to new ideas.
Those people who say ‘just do it’ used to annoy me profoundly. But they’re right.
2. Good is good enough
Earlier, I talked about the danger of perfectionism because it stops us trying by trapping us in a never-ending desire to get everything 100% right. We have to resist this urge.
If you struggle with knowing when to stop, consider what the end result could look like. When you reach that end result, you can take a break and then review. Chances are, you’re done!
If you struggle with wanting everything to be perfect, knowing what ‘good’ looks like will help. When you complete a piece of work and it’s good, then you’re done. Good is good enough.
3. Respond to change
A reluctant convert to mindfulness, I’ve been surprised that it’s helped me to manage change better than anything else. This is because I learned about impermanence.
Basically, impermanence is the concept that things are always changing. Nothing is permanent; thoughts, emotions, relationships, and ultimately life itself are all destined to change or end. Change is a part of life and our best strategy is to learn how to respond to it.
When we work, it’s important to have a flexible mindset and be open to change taking place. We can can iterate – taking small decisions, or making small changes along the way.
When we face a large project, breaking it into smaller milestones or steps can help it to feel less daunting. When we repeat a task, having a basic outline to follow can keep us on track.
4. Focus on priorities
When you have multiple tasks, ideas or projects, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. Here are some strategies I’ve found helpful:
Find your most important things – the top three things you need to get done that day, week, or month.
Consider any deadlines you have or milestones you need to meet.
Prioritise anything where you need to make a decision or move a task forward. This is particularly important if you lead a team.
I’ll repeat another annoying maxim – a good way forward is to start with what needs to be done.
For many of us, we can feel so much pressure to do everything that we can end up falling at the first hurdle.
If we put unrealistic pressure on ourselves, this can lead to burnout. In fact one of the key things I’ve learned is this:
“Whenever we treat energy as infinite, burnout is the result.”
I heard this on one of Bruce Daisley’s excellent podcasts on work culture.
A good way forward is to begin, to be happy with good, to respond to change, prioritise what matters, and to accept when we need to rest.
Rest! Enjoy rest! Prioritise rest! Protect rest!
We’re not robots, and hustle culture is for fools.
That’s all very well, but how do we actually start this process? Here are some helpful resources to help you to put this into practice.
There are three parts to this: resources that help you plan out your work like content planners, finding a way to capture good practice and good ideas, and putting time aside to develop, test and use ideas.
In order to get things done, it’s important to make time for focussed work. Taking steps to manage your diary can help. 2-3 weeks ahead, book in time for screen breaks, planning, and focused work. You may have to move a few things for urgent issues from time to time, but it’s helpful to set the intention to plan, focus, and rest.
3. Finding your own system
Everyone will have different ways that work for them when planning, prioritising and managing time. As I have multiple priorities and people/teams to manage, I’ve found that a Kanban style system works best for me. This is because it helps me to organise multiple pieces of work in terms of progress and priority.
I use an adapted version of this excellent mise en place Trello board, created by the person who co-designed the Trello product. Mise-en-place roughly means “everything in its place.”
4. Blocking distractions
Once you’ve made time to focus on projects and tasks, it’s important to block out distractions. I’d recommend exiting noisy instant communication apps like Slack or Teams and turning off the email notification in Outlook. Our phones are filled with noisy notifications too so I’d recommend turning as many of those off as possible or using an app like Freedom.
To stay motivated and inspired, it’s important to get support from others. Talk about your roadblocks and challenges with a colleague or peer. If you can, find someone who will hold you accountable in a friendly and supportive way. Speaking of which…
I’m getting out of my own way – but I need your support
Having broken the barriers down, I want to commit to blogging and sharing insights more regularly. I would love to hear from the people who read my blog, particularly those working for non-profits and charities, and those in the community management profession.
I’d love to know what you think and what you’d like to hear more about. My intention is to be helpful!
How are you with New Year’s resolutions? Perhaps you’re obsessed with planning and goal setting, or perhaps you shudder at the thought of targets, and colour-coded lists.
Planning isn’t just a January fad, but a helpful way to take your community to the next level.
Are you unsure where to start, or wondering how to create a plan and make it work?
In this blog, I’ve put together some helpful resources and explained how you can apply the ‘Plan Do Review’ model to help advance your community, your team, or your career.
Before you start …
Consider what you’d like to improve, or what you’d like to change.
Have you ever created a community strategy (i.e. studying your organisation’s strategic aims and deciding how your community will meet them)? This excellent article explains how to get started.
Could you put a community roadmap in place to introduce new features or activities? This article from Community Roundtable has great advice on what a roadmap is, how it can help, and how to adjust it to each maturity stage of a community.
Do you want to kick off a project to set targets and goals for your team? If you’re interested in how to help develop and upskill your community team, this comprehensive article will help.
If you want to advance your personal growth and learning, have you put a plan in place? Earlier this week, I got stuck with how to start my own. This insightful and honest review from a community leader I admire really helped me to factor in the importance of reflection, celebration and continuous learning.
Step one – plan
Once you’ve chosen what to work on, you’ll need to create a plan.
Start with benchmarking your current position, then consider what you want to change or improve. Be specific and then be selective – don’t try to change everything at once. Consider what would be most helpful. Decide what success will look like and confirm one or two outcomes.
Questions to ask:
Do you have different ideas about how to complete your project? If so, consider the most practical approach to take.
What resources do you need, and do you need to set a timeframe? Consider what works for your goal and your organisational context: you may choose to iterate and work gradually, or have a set target and timeframe.
How will you track progress? Set some milestones and put in breaks to review. If you don’t have a manager, find a mentor or colleague to discuss your project with.
For community or team projects, involve your team in generating ideas. Create a ‘community wishlist’ and prioritise ideas as a team. If a team member is excited by an idea, invite them to work with you, or delegate that task to them.
For community improvement projects, look at feedback from your community, drawing out comments about what isn’t working well, or suggestions for new features and activities.
For community roadmaps, look at your previous year’s programme of work and decide what you will stop, start and continue this year.
Step two – do
Seek inspiration by identifying good practice or ask for advice from peers in a community of practice. You may find someone who has worked on a similar project or has solved similar problems.
If you have a big project, set milestones or smaller steps along the way to make it less daunting and help you progress.
Put time aside for focussed work. Test and review as you go. If you want to test how an idea works in practice, involve your team or a small group of active community members.
If you get stuck or overwhelmed, consider what the quick wins are, or limit your focus to one or two key areas. If you scale down to make progress, put everything else on your ‘not for now’ list to revisit later.
If your approach or idea isn’t working, revisit the plan and consider a different tactic. It’s the goal that matters most, not the method!
Step three – review
When you review, start by assessing your original goal, benchmark and success measure.
Did you meet your goal and if so, what difference has this made? What positive impact has this had? What needs have been met, or what problem has been solved?
What went well? Take time to celebrate good work and consider what you or your team found most enjoyable. If you’ve identified future project ideas or resources, add them to your ‘future projects’ list.
Don’t shy away from the things that didn’t work. Identify the specific things that didn’t go to plan. Do you know why? Identify what you learned or what could be done differently next time.
When you review, capture your key insights so you can use them to demonstrate achievements and lessons learned.
Toddlers, and trying again
Finally, I thought I’d share a pearl of wisdom that struck me when watching this strangely compelling viral video of a toddler race set to the theme from Rocky III:
Create a plan, find your own way to progress and if you hit a roadblock, keep going!