An online community doesn’t just happen because you set up a website – it needs filling, prodding, stimulating, provoking and managing. That's the role of the community manager and that has been my pleasure for the last 16 years. But I do not act alone.
As with any online community, a handful of people create a lot of the content. Most of these active contributors belong to our small volunteer team of Community Champions, who support me every day. They do much of the heavy-lifting and are always there when I feel deflated.
I was reminded only last week on a Teams call between David D’Souza (our Membership Director) and a small number of Champions (who between them have contributed over 60,000 posts) the enormity of their role. They go out of their way to help answer questions, signpost useful content and share anecdotes, advice and experiences.
They also help set the tone and atmosphere of the community by being advocates of a healthy community; they lead by example by adhering to the rules, filling in their profile, and by speaking in a ‘voice’ that is friendly, welcoming and on topic. They welcome first time posters (some of them will be new members). It’s no exaggeration to say that the Community just would not have survived for so long without the active, regular involvement and enthusiasm of our Champions. Without them, the Community would quickly begin to wither and fade.
The key purpose of our Community has not budged in 17 years: to connect people to solve members’ workplace problems quickly. It is a highly valued member service and we care about that a lot. We invest a lot in the platform, but as Laurie Anderson once said: “Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.” A community is about people.
Our members frequently ask for help or seek advice regarding their own personal circumstances. They might be experiencing financial hardship, stress, health issues, career dilemmas, the prospect of redundancy, feel isolated when studying for exams, need a mentor, have a difficult relationship with their line manager, be ‘in two minds’ over ethics, incidents of alleged malpractice or whistle blowing. The scenarios, nuances and sub-plots are – and have been – endless. Almost always, it will be a Champion who steps up to rally round and offer their support sensitively. I am truly grateful for the energy and practical professionalism.
On that note, I not only want to thank our recognised champions - but also the hundred-and-something other members who have each posted over 100 times themselves and who give back to the profession; the scores who have posted ten times… or who will today post for the first time. You’ll all making a difference; championing better work and working lives… one conversation at a time.