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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Survey snapshot: Communications practices of small scale collaborations

Last week AAAS and Trellis hosted a three-day NSF-sponsored INCLUDES conference entitled: “The Technical and Human Infrastructure to Support Collective Impact of the INCLUDES Program at the Alliance and Network Levels”. The goal of the conference was to explore how small-scale pilot projects funded at the initial stage of the program might scale to larger collaborations.

To provide context for the discussions of collaboration infrastructure at the conference, we conducted a survey of tools and communication practices of the INCLUDES pilots. Here are three key takeaways based on 33 responses, covering 27 of the 37 total pilot projects.

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Building the infrastructure to support collaboration with NSF INCLUDES

NSF, Trellis, and AAAS logos

In September 2016 The National Science Foundation (NSF) issued the first round of awards for the NSF INCLUDES program. It gave out 37 pilot grants and 11 conference grants to applicants who seek to improve access to STEM education and career pathways for under-represented minorities. Trellis is excited to be a part of the INCLUDES initiative – contributing to it in two ways. Firstly, we’re providing the platform for synthesizing insights and reflections across the projects involved in the pilot phase of the program, using a private Trellis group for INCLUDES grantees. Secondly, several members of the Trellis team are involved with hosting one of the INCLUDES conferences.

This Wednesday, April 12th AAAS is hosting a three-day NSF-sponsored INCLUDES conference entitled: “The Technical and Human Infrastructure to Support Collective Impact of the INCLUDES Program at the Alliance and Network Levels”. The conference is being coordinated by Trellis’s founding general manager, Josh Freeman, Trellis’ Director for Community Engagement, Lou Woodley and AAAS Director of Education and Human Resources Programs Shirley Malcom. We’ll be delving deeper into the tools and communication needs of the pilot projects and how these might scale in order to successfully create an NSF INCLUDES 
National Network Backbone.

Over 70 participants are expected at the conference, with at least 25 different pilot projects represented. Items on the agenda include insights from the Science of Team Science movement and discussion of a pre-conference survey which looked at the current tools and communication patterns of the pilot grantees. Stay tuned as we report back on those conversations next week.