All around the world organisations and businesses are experimenting with different ways of partnering with their people and their customers to develop goods and services which really make a difference to the lives of the people who use them.

Amongst the many things they are discovering is the impact that belonging has on our motivation. People are joining communities and actively participating when they feel a sense of belonging that drives involvement with something bigger than themselves.

Technology is making it ever easier for us join with others in virtual communities. And yet technology itself doesn’t enable belonging.

As service providers we need to understand how to host these communities so that people experience the benefits of belonging.

As hosts we need to be outstanding facilitators building virtual and physical spaces which facilitate belonging and support and which enable people to effectively participate within communities of purpose, power and action.

So what are the 5 most important things great hosts need to know?

1. Communities Need Frameworks

Every community needs a framework, which is a way of understanding why and how we come together. If I don’t know why, I won’t join!

Every community of purpose needs:

Purpose – why we come together
Values – how we come together
Activities – what we do together
Outcomes– what we achieve together

2. Communities Need to be REAL

Hosts need to ensure that peoples contribution creates change. Real communities are:
Responsive – responding to the needs and Involvement Drivers of the Group.
Evolving – ever changing and evolving as a result of the conversations and dialogue.
Affirming – place to feel heard, to belong and feel part of a collaborative community.
Life Giving – inspiring and energising places where people can grow and develop.

3. Understand People’s Involvement Drivers – People Like To Be Able To Get Involved in Different Ways!

People like to have choice and in communities they choose to play different roles at different times:

Observers – simply know what’s going on.
Contributors – share and contribute to specific activities that matter to them.
Participants – visit regularly and get involved across a spectrum of activities.
Influencers – instigate and steer the direction of the community
Hosts – act as facilitators, administrator and participants.

4. Everything Needs to be Easy and Safe

It may seem obvious, but people want to spend time together in enjoyable and interactive ways. They frequent spaces that are safe, secure and which meet their needs. They want private spaces where they can be honest, and trust that whatever they say will not be judged. They want virtual spaces that are simple and easy to use.

5. The Importance of the Role of the Host

The host’s role is probably the most important in any community. They hold the space and enable the community to function effectively. They play many roles:

  • Originator – they enable the community to get off the ground – they help identify and understand the community’s purpose and nature.
  • Designer – they work with the community to design the spaces, choose the tools and technology that will support it.
  • Facilitator – they ensure the community works effectively, paying attention to developing relationships, activities and experiences for the community to take part in.
  • Main Administrator – keeps the community space working effectively so it meets the community’s needs.
  • Participant – is actively involved in the site as a contributor and in so doing sets the tone of openness and transparency.

 

It’s my belief that to be a successful digital host requires the same mindset that drives success in hospitality in the world at large. Henri Nouwen sums it up well:

Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.

Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.

It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life