Need a new way to talk about community management? The second CSCCE concept booklet describes “the garden metaphor”

Back in November, we shared our first “concept booklet” – a collection of essays and reflection questions that used the metaphor of a house party to discuss challenges and opportunities in STEM community management. This month, we’ve been sharing another metaphor – the garden! 

Each metaphor lends itself to exploring different concepts – the house party was great for thinking about scaffolding, and the garden is particularly “fruitful” when considering who your members are and how they interact with each other. And, as we discussed on our March community call, these two metaphors may resonate differently with you and how you think about your work. 

We’ve compiled all of our horticultural posts into our second “CSCCE concept booklet” which you can download for free, refer to as needed, and easily cite! 

What’s a concept booklet?

CSCCE concept booklets focus on supporting you in the exploration of abstract ideas, with reflection prompts to point you towards creating your own solutions or next steps. They’re less like a map or a clear set of directions, and more like some suggestions of places to visit. 

An illustration of a person with long, brown hair preparing to remove a plant from a pot and plant it in their garden. There are trees, a fence, and some flowers already in the garden, and white clouds dot a blue sky.

Image by Freepik

They’re also a useful tool for talking to others in your organization who may be less familiar with community engagement and programming. If you’re navigating conversations with your supervisor or team members, consider using a metaphor you have in common so that you can use shared vocabulary to work through your current situation.

What’s in this one? 

In this concept booklet, we’re focusing on the garden metaphor for community management. Over the years, we (and others) have compared the role of the community manager to that of a gardener or groundskeeper – an individual who carefully tends a shared space, distributing resources and deploying a range of techniques to ensure all of the occupants can thrive. 

In this latest collection of metaphor-inspired essays, we’ve extended the idea to consider what else the rich world of plants can teach us about community engagement. We’ve long been inspired by the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass) and Beronda Montgomery (Lessons from Plants), who have so poetically shared their knowledge of the plant kingdom, and we draw on a specific example from their work in our final essay in the booklet.

As we did for the house party metaphor, we’ve also included reflection questions at the end of each section of the booklet that we hope will inspire you to make the metaphor your own – whether you’re a home gardener, houseplant lover, or simply enjoy smelling the roses as you walk through the park. 

How do you suggest I use the booklet? 

The booklet is clearly divided into four sections, and we suggest you begin by reading the introductory chapter. From there, though, you can jump around as needed – maybe getting stuck straight into the reflection questions or exploring some of the additional reading we’ve included in each chapter. 

The reflection questions instigated a great discussion on our March 2024 community call, so we’d encourage you to use them at your own team meeting and see what happens! 

Are you going to make more of these? 

Yes! In the short term, we’re planning on releasing one more of these booklets this year, using the metaphor of the night sky. We’d love to hear your thoughts – is there a metaphor you use to talk about your community management work? Let us know:

I have an idea for a future concept booklet, can I work on it with you?  

We would love to hear from you if you have an idea for a concept booklet (or a guest blog post) – it doesn’t have to involve a metaphor! We regularly publish resources in collaboration with our community members, if you’re interested in co-authoring something with us. Or, if there’s an idea you think we should expand upon that you’ve noticed in our trainings or resources, let us know! You can always reach us at

If you’re finding our metaphor series useful (the house party or the garden), do let us know – we’re always curious how our resources impact the STEM community-building ecosystem.