In a series of 3 posts, I’m sharing some books that I’ve found useful on the topics of community management, online interactions, and leadership and team culture. In this post, I recommend 5 books that discuss community management and working effectively with groups.
1. “The art of community” by Jono Bacon
This was the book that years ago helped me to realise that I was a community manager. Jono Bacon describes what a community manager does – including the importance of good communication practices, selecting the right tools, and balancing being a member of the community while often negotiating your role as an employee representing an organization. If you’re wondering whether you’re a community manager, or are brand new to the role, this is a good place to start.
2. “Buzzing Communities” by Rich Millington
This book is a great primer in some of the fundamental tactics of community management. It includes a four stage lifecycle model of online communities which is helpful for understanding how an online community matures and what a community manager’s role is at each stage of the cycle. I particularly liked the emphasis on proactive rather than reactive measures to community management.
3. “Connecting to Change the World” by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor and John Cleveland
“Buzzing Communities” focuses on the strategies to build online communities – which may be hosted by an organisation to perform functions ranging from customer support to feedback gathering or mentoring. By contrast, “Connecting to Change the World” is specifically interested in what it calls “generative social impact networks” – groups working for social good. The community managers of these networks are called netweavers and the their role is to “weave” a tightly connected core of members who can create momentum and shared vision within the group.
I appreciated the various resources in this book and its appendices – from characteristics of network-centric leaders to check lists of things to consider when starting a new network. This is a rich, action-oriented text.
4. “Systems thinking for social change” – David Peter Stroh
In the selection of books about leadership and team culture that I previously shared, I mentioned Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline” – a great introduction to the importance of systems thinking for considering how we work together within our organizations. In “Systems thinking for social change” that theory, plus the notion of social impact networks from “Connecting to change the world” is brought together to create a practical guide to understanding and working with complex systems.
While this isn’t badged as community management, if you’re interested in tackling complex (social) problems and helping your stakeholders work with the common systems archetypes that can stall projects, this is a fascinating read.
5. “Quiet – the power of introverts” by Susan Cain
Recommended by a friend, this book emphasises how our focus on group learning activities, open plan offices and more doesn’t create the quiet spaces that those of us with more introverted personalities need to reflect and recoup our energy.
Thinking about different ways of interacting within a larger group probably influenced the short questionnaire that I created for the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows before their initial training week where I asked about their preferred learning styles. That proved to be a very useful way of starting to consider the class structure prior to meeting everyone, but also prompting them to reflect on their own behavioural defaults.
Conversations about introversion and respecting a diversity of personality types and learning styles were also discussed at the Community Leadership Summit that I participated in in May 2016. Discussions there included the importance of online back channels during in-person events for those who were less comfortably thinking out loud.