Launching a New Community as a New Community Manager

This past year, Ellen Bechtol launched a brand new community as a brand new community manager. In this guest post she reflects on how that went.

This past year, I had the opportunity and privilege to launch a brand new community as a brand new community manager. And I think it went reasonably well! Here’s why:

Joining a Community of Practice

The Multimessenger Diversity Network (MDN) is a community of representatives from multimessenger astrophysics research collaborations focused on increasing diversity in the field. As a community of practice (CoP), the MDN is “a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner). I find it fitting that to run a CoP I joined a CoP for community managers, the Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP) and subsequent CSCCE CoP. Within weeks of starting in my new role as a community manager, I applied to the CEFP with a strong sense that being part of it would be crucial to successfully launching the MDN. After all, I was stepping into a new role for a new community and was feeling rather lost as to where to begin. Although much of the content from the early CEFP trainings felt out of scope for the MDN, connecting with other community managers (CMs) and getting introduced to the foundations of community management from the perspective of mature communities was unbelievably helpful. Even more helpful were continued interactions, online and at subsequent trainings, with other Fellows. The collective resource of experiences from so many CMs in so many different types of organizations has been most valuable.

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Laying Your Happiness Foundation When Starting a New Role

Transitioning to a new role can be a daunting and important stage in your community management career. Here, CEFP2019 Fellow, Ann Meyer, shares 5 tips to help you thrive – and enjoy – your next career move.

I recently transitioned to a new role and was a little surprised by a question during my interview. They asked me “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I know I was expected to answer with an idea of a concrete plan or a solid, tangible vision for my future but what popped out of my mouth instead was, “I want to be happy.” But we all know that more often than not, happiness isn’t something that just happens – you have to work for it.

Wanting to be happy at work isn’t an idle or frivolous desire. Research has shown that happy people are successful people (Lyubomirsky et al 2005 https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803). With a new role, you have an opportunity to set yourself up to be happy from the very beginning. By laying a solid foundation when you start, you are setting yourself up not only for a smooth transition but also for future success. Here are five ways I’ve tried to do just that for myself every time I change jobs:

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Navigating the Nuances of Hiring a Community Team Member

If you’re recruiting for a new member of your community team, how do you identify potential candidates, create a successful interview process and then support the on-boarding of your new team member? CEFP2019 Fellow, Liz Guzy, walks us through the steps.

As community managers we are often tasked with many different roles, including Human Resources. As projects launch and demands mount, we realize we can no longer do it all and must consider hiring additional staff, but this process can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing:

  • How do we carve out the time for the hiring process that we can be sure yields the best applicant pool?  
  • What if no one applies or wants to be part of our community?
  • How do we navigate adding members to our team when our community is still being established/growing?
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From the Rehearsal to the Annual Meeting: What can scientific community managers learn from collective organizing in other situations?

In this guest blog, CEFP 2019 Fellow Arielle Bennett-Lovell considers how her community organizing efforts outside science help her in her day job as Coordinator for the Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge.

What do a local campaign to save libraries, shared allotments, extinction rebellion protests, and a society of learned individuals all have in common? All of these are groups of people brought together by a shared goal, often with the intention of using collective discussions and engagement from members to push forward a set of ideas or principles using a variety of different initiatives.

A mature scientific community, which is co-creating its programming and future direction as part of a member-led exercise, or advocating for larger societal change on key issues in broader society, shares a lot of organisational parallels with an active community outside of science. However, as community managers, we sometimes don’t see these connections and miss the opportunity to use a breadth of examples in our own organisations.

We can, and should, examine the experiences of other communities, bringing them back into our own as examples of collective organising. This can enrich planning and programming for our scientists, students, and stakeholders. I’ve been lucky to be a part of a number of different campaigns and communities outside of my day job, and in this piece, I’ve outlined some of the key aspects of collective organising I’ve picked up from outside science.

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Online Co-working Partnerships are Community of Practice in Action

When Naomi Penfold of the CEFP2019 cohort and Stefanie Butland (#CEFP2017) met in person at the January 2019 CEFP training week they decided to continue collaborating online – by setting up virtual co-working sessions. In this joint post they describe the format that’s worked for them and why they’ve found their shared time so valuable.

What is online co-working – and why is it good?

After meeting at the first CEFP2019 Fellows’ meeting, we started a co-working partnership. We meet face-to-face online, at agreed times, to do work – our own work, but together in time. This is remote synchronous co-working via video-meeting.

Briefly, we start a session with each of us saying what we are working on, and how we’d like to break up our time together into work blocks and discussion. At the end of each work block, we report back to each other what we’ve accomplished in that time and whether we’re struggling with anything. These breaks can turn into work discussions when we feel we need that, and that’s the real magic.

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Crafting effective community surveys

Toby Hodges is a Bioinformatics Community Project Manager at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. He coordinates the EMBL Bio-IT Project, a community building and support project for bioinformaticians and computational biologists. In this role, he works with volunteers from the community to provide training and consulting, information, networking opportunities, and resources to EMBL scientists who use computational approaches in their research.

As community managers, one of the of the pressures on us is the requirement that we make decisions based on an understanding of our community members. We must frequently make choices on the assumption that we know what the desires, motivations, and preferences are of the people that make up our community. Although we have a close working relationship and perhaps even friendship with some of them, it’s generally very difficult for us to maintain a deep understanding of what makes every member of our community tick, what they want to achieve, and how we can help them to do that.

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Impostor syndrome and community management – lessons on building a community while building myself

Shane M Hanlon is the Program Manager for AGU’s Sharing Science Program and a Senior Producer with the science storytelling organization The Story Collider. Learn more about the Sharing Science Community / @AGU_SciComm and follow him @EcologyOfShane.

Community (and Communication) Don’t Happen Naturally

Six months ago, I had no idea what a community manager was.

I’m the Program Manager for the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU’s) Sharing Science Program. My team and I work to provide scientists with the skills, tools, and opportunities to help them share their science with any audience. We hold workshops, webinars, create tools, manager social media outlets, and more, all in the pursuit of this goal. Eventually we starting pulling folks together into a network of like-minded individuals who are passionate about, and committed to, science communication (scicomm), policy, and outreach. We called it the “Sharing Science Network.” At that point I don’t know if I would have called it a community – but it quickly evolved into one.

Shane at AGU’s annual meeting (giddily) displaying a Sharing Science Community banner. Credit: Olivia V. Ambrogio
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Stepping Beyond the Personal and Professional Silos of a Research Project Manager

Brit Myers is a Project Manager for the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS), a non-profit membership organization with the mission of facilitating cross-boundary Arctic knowledge, research, communication, and education. She works to enhance the ability of the highly distributed Arctic research community to connect with one another and work more effectively through collaborative research programs.

Last year I was invited by Dr. Luisa Cristini  from the Alfred Wegener Institute to co-convene a session at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting.  Luisa was interested in submitting a session proposal specifically focused on issues relevant to the work of scientific project managers – a job title she and I share. Hoping to attract a larger number of abstracts to the proposed AGU session, we also agreed to reach out to the AAAS CEFP community to see if our session topic might be similar enough to their interests to warrant collaboration.  Luckily, CSCCE’s Lou Woodley and another group of #CEFP17 session conveners agreed to join us in our efforts!

However, as we drafted the combined AGU session description – and during a number of other conversations that followed – there was some genuine uncertainty about where the boundaries might stand between those focused on professional development from a “Project Manager” standpoint vs. that of a “Research Community Manager.”  For anyone with a Project Management job title, it is hard to forget that Project Management is a well-established profession with an official Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) regulated through accreditation organizations like the Project Management Institute.  Alternatively, the “Research Community Manager” is viewed by the new Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement as an “emerging profession,” distinct enough from both traditional project management and/or non-scientific online community management to justify the time and attention needed to professionalize and institutionalize the role.

Image by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-ceiling-classroom-daylight-373488/
Image by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-ceiling-classroom-daylight-373488/

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Ten networking strategies for community managers

One task of a scientific community manager is to facilitate the activities of a community and to create opportunities for community members to engage in productive interaction. In this post CEFP2019 Fellow, Rayna Harris shares ten networking strategies for community managers.

Networking is a process we use to exchange ideas and to build relationships with individuals that share a common interest.  In previous decades, most networking was done in-person, perhaps with the exchange of a business card or elevator pitch; however, digital communication is an increasingly common way that people network (Leek 2016). Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, the goal of this blog post is to provide community managers with a few strategies for networking to build their community and facilitate the exchange of ideas and information.

Networking strategies for social media

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An agile community strategy — or how to use objectives and key results (OKRs) to say no and stay focused

In the first of our series of posts by members of the CEFP2019 cohort, Naomi Penfold walks us through her strategy for prioritizing her workflow and staying focused.

You look at your week ahead, and see a calendar jam-packed with meetings and not enough time to respond to community requests or even start to deal with your inbox. Some of these interruptions will be exciting opportunities, but will they help you stay focused on your current goals for the community? Will you ever be able to leave your desk and go home? Despite our best efforts to stay organised and in control, I suspect we all end up feeling overwhelmed at times, especially when community management requires you to be there for people and be reactive in the moment as well as keep the ball rolling with long-term projects and general community programming.

If this resonates, you’re not alone: 32% community managers reported ‘prioritizing number of tasks to do’ as the greatest challenge in their role in CSCCE’s survey in 2016. Clearly something has to give, but who do you prioritise and why? How do you know which tasks are most likely to contribute to your overall mission? How can you say no and avoid becoming overwhelmed? In this post, I describe a method I’m trying to outline, use, and evaluate a community-based strategy. This method has helped me to say no and stay focused before, and now I’m trying to combine it with what we are learning about community strategy through the Community Engagement Fellowship Program.

Lay out your objectives to keep your community on track. Photo by Pille Kirsi from Pexels.
Lay out your objectives to keep your community on track. Photo by Pille Kirsi from Pexels.

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