For more than a decade, countless community groups around the world have used Facebook to connect with each other, plan events and share ideas and information. Until now, community admins have needed to learn how to do this online, often on their own. Recently Facebook have created a programme to recognise and support the important work these community leaders do, bringing them together at face to face events around the world.
You can visit this link directly for more information: https://www.facebook.com/community/circles/
Facebook Community Leadership Circles Amsterdam
I’m about to attend my first event in Amsterdam this coming weekend. Our two local hosts are Emmy Coffey McCarthy, founder of Amsterdam Mamas and Jeffrey van Heck from Natuurmonumenten. I’m really looking forward to meeting and sharing experiences with them and other community leaders. Though some communities use groups and others pages, and some are small and others are huge, I’m sure we can all learn from each other.
Here’s a few of my thoughts around this concept and communities:
Tech Trends: Offline as well as online
This follows a tech trend I’ve noticed in the last year or so, where big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and others are realising that it’s not enough to have just a huge online presence, an offline connection is also necessary for people to better understand, use and trust your brand.
#LinkedInLocal and Grow with Google
A similar kind of concept in terms of starting online then meeting offline is LinkedInLocal – though this is not (yet) supported directly by LinkedIn. The #linkedinlocal events are targeted at all individuals though, unlike these Facebook circles which exclusively recognise the challenges faced and contributions made by community leaders. For the last year, I’ve been a trainer on the offline Grow with Google programme in the Netherlands. I’m fairly sure other tech companies will continue to look for ways to connect not just online but in person with their customers.
Security and Privacy – let’s talk about it
You are no doubt aware of, or have your own experiences with tech security and privacy issues in recent years. Yes, there have been mistakes made – and we need to remain alert and educated as users. However I feel we also need to appreciate the scale of services we have been offered which have boosted communities significantly – for free. Of course we can have valid concerns but it’s not feasible to simply refuse to use technology, or to constantly complain. Instead, one of the best ways I think we can deal with this is to come together and continue to talk about it – online and offline. This has been new territory for us all as a society to navigate together and we’re still learning. Let’s continue to focus on the positive side of how tech can support communities, and learn together how to minimise any threats or challenges.
I’m a community addict
I’ve already followed this combination of online/offline model myself as a community leader for many years, growing communities including Dutch Australian, the Zestee Social Media School, Professional Parents (NL), Kids English Club the Netherlands, Culture and Kids, DelftMama, TheHagueOnLine, and more. I’ve also contributed to and participated in lots of other online/offline communities – I guess you could call me a community addict!
I also follow this philosophy in my work in education, where it has come to be called “blended learning”. As a lecturer and trainer, it’s about finding the optimal mix of online and offline methods to suit the situation. This also applies to communities.
Online can enhance face to face connections
For me, it’s about balance. Face to face meet ups are great, but in our busy, transient lives, not always possible. The online explosion in the last decade or more has offered the opportunity to communicate worldwide 24/7. Done well I believe online should not replace, but enhance face to face connections and events. Once we meet someone, we can follow up online and decide whether to meet up again. Or we can chat with someone online first and then meet up offline. And so on. Blended communications.
So what exactly is a community?
Though there is no completely agreed upon definition, loosely this applies to a group of people coming together with a shared interest. Usually there are at least one, two or more people who (co)create and lead the community. Ideally, a community is “engaged” where communication happens regularly, though in reality there are often a large proportion of not-so-active members. It can be anything from a local neighbourhood group, church, sports association or a group of people forming around many other concepts. Corporate organisations have realised the power of growing communities as well but in general when I’m talking about a community (and I believe for the context of these Facebook Community Leadership Circles) we are referring to a community that is not formed by a brand or someone selling something.
Facebook Community Leadership Circles
So I’m enthusiastic that Facebook is consciously creating a chance for community leaders to meet up offline. This link explains the Facebook Community Leadership Circles in more detail, but the core concept is for community leaders to come together – in person – to learn from each other.
At time of writing, there are Facebook Community Leadership Circles already established in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans and may other European, US and African cities. You can search by location or browse the list via the link above. If there is no circle in your city, you can apply to start one – applications currently being accepted in the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Again, visit the link for FAQs and more details.
The idea is that each city hosts an event at least once a quarter, preferably once a month, giving the community leaders a chance to learn from each other. The circle leads have some level of direct support from Facebook.
Going back to “blended” each offline community circle also has a corresponding online Facebook community (group). These are private and you must meet the criteria to be accepted. You can find your local online/offline circle, or create one, via this link:
Meanwhile I’d love to know from you in a comment:
- Is this the first you’ve heard of Facebook Community Leadership Circles?
- Are you a community leader? Or know one?
- What are your thoughts?
- Have you/will you be involved with one and where?
- Any other examples or experiences of online/offline/blended education or technology?