You can’t just ‘create’ a genuine community, but you can foster an authentic one.

It’s a powerful phrase, isn’t it? I heard this at a recent conference. I know why it stood out – too many times I have failed by trying to create a community, instead of fostering one. But what might that involve?

Got a learning platform – a VLE? You might use one if you work in education, or are studying. If you do use one, think about where the most successful areas of participation exist. Are they in formal areas – courses, or informational areas? I suspect not. Are they found in informal areas, or those areas where the participants feel they have some ownership of the content? I think they might be.

If your community members don’t feel like they have any ownership, influence or a sense of being, the chances are that you aren’t seeing the best contributions. Worst case scenario, you might be having to work hard to get any contribution at all.

You can’t simply ‘create’ your community and expect it to grow – you have to foster it from just a few individuals into a vibrant community. Listen to the community voice. Invite them to contribute. Coach them toward finding relevance, and even pursuing a community role. Only then will the potential be realised.

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