Community Manager musings: advice for careers in community management from #TheCRConnect

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

This week I attended the Community Roundtable’s annual event, TheCR Connect. On Monday afternoon there was a great panel discussion about community management careers featuring Kristen Laaspere of Akamai, JJ Lovett of CA Technologies and Luke Sinclair of AMEX. Here are some of the key takeaways. (Any mistakes in transcription/interpretation are mine!)

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Community Manager musings: 12 attributes of “less visible” network leaders

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

“Follow me and when I say duck…”
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/1301014184/

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it is that makes community managers / network leaders unique. How do we accurately describe a role with activities that require seemingly opposed skillsets and that in many cases can also be somewhat invisible?

In his short publication “The Less Visible Leader” (free to download here), Andy Robinson lists 12 attributes of net-centric leaders that fall into three broad categories:

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5 books that have influenced how I think about community management

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.

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Considering Community: The Connect-Align-Produce network model for social-impact networks

Social in silico includes a series of occasional posts focused on community management tips and related information. I’m tagging these Considering Community and you can find all the posts in the series here

For regular online communities, such as those hosted by an organisation, we looked at the four stage model of the community lifecycle described in Rich Millington’s “Buzzing Communities”. Last week, we considered a different type of community – a social-impact network where the emphasis is on group members working together for a social good. In “Connecting to Change the World”, the authors discuss three different stages of a social-impact network – and how it’s possible to transition between them. Let’s consider this connect-align-produce model.

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Emergence in communities – from quorum sensing in bacteria to human cohorts

I got into an interesting conversation recently at a conference about what “emergence” looks like in practice. It’s one of those words that’s being increasingly used to describe the power of communities to self-organise (e.g. “emergence over authority” is one of the chapters of Whiplash by Joi Ito of Media Lab). And yet I hadn’t fully appreciated how emergence plays out in groups. At least, until I realised that emergence is what I was working on as a graduate student – without ever describing it in those terms.

My biochemistry research focused on quorum sensing in bacteria – a mechanism by which a group of bacteria of the same species coordinate to produce a compound at high population density that’s not seen when the same bugs exist at a lower density. The specific compound produced varies with the type of bacteria – sometimes it’s a pigment, others an antibiotic, or a specific set of enzymes. But essentially, quorum sensing is about how bacteria communicate as a group to decide when to make this population-dependent chemical. So I often joke that my interests in collaborative behaviour took the long route from studying uni-cellular organisms to multi-cellular ones! 

Emergence in bacteria – a lightbulb moment!
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/252308050/

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Community Manager musings: change agents by another name?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

Last week I attended a super workshop on netweaving within and among STEM education networks – learning much about the literature and terminology of netweaving in the process.

From all I heard, netweavers are analogous to community managers with many skills and theories in common – just with different terms and disciplines (more on that need for synthesis across fields in another post).

I thought this description of the traits of a netweaver by Bruce Goldstein was particularly helpful for adding another layer to how we think about the people who build networks within science. Netweavers are:

  • experimental
  • comfortable with uncertainty
  • hungry for change
  • want to be a disruptive force from within

I particularly like how this list highlights traits that can be found in those people pushing for culture change, while working within established systems. We spent a lot of time during the mid-year meeting of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows talking about organisational structures and the challenges of negotiating culture change so the idea that the above traits are necessary in a community manager makes a lot of sense to me.

Do you identify yourself in this list of traits? Is there anything missing? Can all community managers also be described as change agents?

Community Manager musings: A web of skills “held in tension”, rather than a skills wheel?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the skills and traits that make a community manager. It’s a challenging role to define because it combines tactical, deliberate actions with emotionally and culturally sensitive leadership. Last week, at a netweaving workshop for those building networks of STEM educators, I learned about this skills web by Bev Wegner-Trayner.

Social learning leadership skills web by Bev Wegner-Trayner. Original version here: http://wenger-trayner.com/all/social-learning-leadership/

 

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