February Community Call Recap – Community-engaged content and its informational roles

Communities rely on content – from websites describing purpose and personnel to documentation guiding activities, gatherings, and collaboration.

Creating content that serves these purposes well, and inspires ongoing connection between members, is therefore something that community managers are often tasked with. It’s also the topic of our advanced training course Content Design (CODE), and on this month’s community call we shared one of the frameworks we’ve developed to demystify the process of creating community-engaged content. 

In this blog post, you’ll find an overview of the call and some of the topics covered in it. It would be impossible for us to condense a 6-week training into a single 90-minute community call, and even less likely that a single blog post could capture all of the nuances of content creation for STEM communities. If you’d like to go deeper, we encourage you to sign up for CODE. Registration is currently open for a Spring 2024 cohort of the course, however if April/May is not a great time for you to participate, please use this form to let us know when might make more sense for you

We’ll also be publishing three new guidebooks in the coming weeks, as well as adding a new collection of terms to the CSCCE glossary, all about community-engaged content. These will be free to download from our Zenodo repository, and we’ll let you know here on the blog when they’re available. 

An illustration of a person holding a giant pencil, with which they are creating various pieces of content.
Image adapted from an original by Storyset on Freepik.

What is community-engaged content? 

What did you read today? Maybe some emails from colleagues, the news headlines, a post that caught your attention on a community forum. It’s all content, but is it community-engaged content?

Community-engaged content serves to inspire or support your members in connecting with others in the community – to do something in response to your content. For example, you might want your members to log in to your community platform and engage with some of the recent posts in there. To accomplish this, you might draft an email that invites them to participate in the discussion, attaching a tip sheet with instructions on how to get started on your platform. 

The informational roles of community-engaged content

In developing the CODE course, we created several frameworks for thinking about community-engaged content and the ways it works to encourage engagement and build a sense of belonging. 

The informational roles of community-engaged content describe the purpose of a piece of content in terms of how it shares information. Our model currently includes six informational roles for community-engaged content: Engagement/activity, Invitation/publicity, Scaffolding, Curation, Synthesis, and Explainer. Our upcoming guidebook will describe each of these roles in detail, as well as how they interplay with other aspects critical to creating community-engaged content, so watch this space for more!

On the call, we asked participants to consider the content they routinely create, and how it might be described using these six informational roles. This activity highlighted some interesting techniques community managers are using to create and share content, including collaborative bibliographies on Zotero (see the resources section below for more on this!) and making case studies of member contributions. 

The resulting conversation led us to explore the value of creating content to archive and record community activities, using content as a currency for recognizing member contributions, and to consider how content can offer members multiple ways to engage with the community (see the CSCCE Community Participation Model for more on multi-modal engagement). 

We also talked about content that is harder to describe using these six roles. For example, sharing news articles as part of your content strategy is an important way of keeping your members up to date and informed, while also building trust in your organization or community. Some news articles might include calls to action (e.g., an invitation to join a community call discussing a new publication), but others exist to share information, without an immediate expectation of engagement (e.g., announcing a new staff member on the community team). 

What else does the CODE course cover? 

The informational roles of community-engaged content is just one aspect of what we cover in CODE, and these roles do not operate in isolation. In CODE, we begin by exploring both the informational AND social roles of community-engaged content, and how to modulate the voice and tone of your content with an appreciation for different audience groups. We also discuss presentation and formatting, and different ways of structuring content. 

After “writing week,” where we practice the concepts covered in the first part of the course, then we transition to creating content campaigns, in which multiple pieces of content come together to meet an overarching goal or support the dissemination of a content pillar. Threaded through the course is ongoing feedback – both peer-to-peer and from the course instructors. 

You can find out more about the course on the CODE webpage, or reach out to training@cscce.org to talk to a member of the CSCCE training team about participating in the course. CODE is also part of the CSCCE Community Manager Certification Program

Upcoming monthly community calls

Join us on 30 March 2024 at 11am EDT / 3pm UTC (note: with the daylight savings change in the US, our regular call time may have shifted in your timezone), when we’ll be discussing the garden metaphor for community engagement. This will be the second metaphor in a series that we started last November (with the house party metaphor), and which we’ll begin describing here on the blog starting tomorrow.

Then in April, we’ll be hosting a call all about evaluating the impact of training courses on the STEM ecosystem. We’ll be sharing the results of our evaluation of our longest-running training course, Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals, and Paz Bernaldo (OLS) will share their similar evaluation project. Jason Williams (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories) will also be presenting on the call, talking about the Bicycle Principles for evaluating short form trainings in STEMM. 

If you’d like to receive calendar invitations for all CSCCE community calls, please let us know by emailing info@cscce.org. We hope to see you at a future call!


During the call, participants shared the following resources: 

Watch this space for more resources from CSCCE on creating community-engaged content!