This week in Boston was the annual in-person gathering of TheCR Network members. It’s part workshop, part conference, part family reunion, part stress relief. It also provides an interesting temperature gauge on how community program owners are feeling about their work and the future. Here are some of the things I took away.
Community leaders are fired up
There has been more progress in community management over the last twelve months than in the previous five years.
- We can measure the value communities generate for organizations. Finally.
- We know what good community dashboards look like. Finally.
- Hiring in the community space is consistently picking up. Finally.
- Executives are supportive, even if they don’t quite understand what’s required. Finally.
- Our organizations and its leaders are starting to understand how critical community approaches are to leadership and management. Finally.
Many of the issues that have long been barriers to progress in this field are breaking up – and that is pretty darn exciting!
Community leaders feel empowered
The lightning talks, roundtable discussions, keynotes, and workshop presentations at TheCR Connect this year represented amazing and inspired work. TheCR Network members are rapidly iterating on what they’ve learned, building tools and approaches that help their organizations understand and invest in their community program.
This success and the ability to demonstrate the value and impact of communities is empowering community leaders to own their worth and their power – and use it to ask for more resources, support, and visibility.
In this regard, TheCR Connect was a master class in community strategy.
Community professionals lead by example
The content and lessons at TheCR Connect were amazing – but didn’t hold a candle to watching community leaders support and validate each other in ways that further empowered their peers.
This culture at TheCR Connect was revealed in engagement behaviors both big and small.
- People’s attention was in the room, not on devices.
- Attendees that were new to the community felt welcomed, embraced, and supported.
- Over 50% of the attendees had formal leadership roles at the event.
- Every session was interactive, with a lot of dialog and questions.
- Leadership and programming emerged as individuals saw the opportunity for it.
The hugging. The laughing. The silly pictures. The patience. The expressed gratitude. TheCR Connect showed us how a strong and supportive culture can make your community sing. It was tempting to want to stay in that cocoon of sanity and a refreshing break from all the craziness that community professionals juggle every day.
What’s next for community leaders?
Given the pace of change, the anxiety, and the social media environment, being together with such an amazing group of people in safe and supportive space was incredibly life-affirming.
Easy as it would be to stay, we know it is exactly what everyone else in this world needs to make progress too. So, first on everyone’s agenda is to take the support, experience, ideas, insights, inspiration, and energy from TheCR Connect back to their own communities.
The discussion identified the following topics that are growing in importance for community leaders:
- Information about community careers including skill development, assessment, job descriptions, and professional development.
- Connections between macro trends and how community approaches address them
- Integration of online and offline community programs
- Definition, data, and templates for different types of communities
- Predictive models that help community teams understand how to optimize and prioritize their time, linking management efforts to the impact of engagement and behavior
There is a pretty exciting shift going on in community work as more people pay attention and see its value. The question for all of us who work in the field is: How well will we use that opportunity?
I, for one, am ready!