Community: shared purpose, belonging, culture

A community is a dynamic, social grouping where members align around a shared purpose (or multiple overlapping purposes) and participate in a shared culture. Active community participation frequently aligns with a sense of belonging and affiliation to the community. In a community, the flow of information is multi-directional (i.e., not only flowing out from a source), with members able to do something as a result of being connected to one another that they would not be able to do alone.


The supportive information, activities, and processes that address barriers to member participation and ensure that all members can access and engage in community programming.

Citation: Center  for  Scientific  Collaboration  and  Community  Engagement.  (2022)  The  CSCCE Community Participation Model – Scaffolding to lower barriers to participation in STEM communities. Woodley, Pratt, and Santistevan doi: 10.5281/zenodo.6078934

Community lifecycle models

All communities transition through different stages over time. Lifecycle models, of which there are several, describe these transitions and offer insights into why and how they happen. 

Multi-modal programming

Different members of your community have different participation preferences, which may also vary over time and depend on current  topics. These preferences  might relate to the ways they wish to engage with information (e.g., written vs. spoken), the amount of time they have to spend on community activities, or the skills they bring to the community. Multi-modal programming, as described in the CSCCE Community Participation Model, recognizes these factors, offering multiple different ways for members to engage at varying levels.

Shared goals

These are the goals that all members of a community or subsection of your community share and value. While each individual will have multiple goals, those that are common across members are the shared goals of the community. Members’ shared goals should align with the purpose of the community.

Content pillar

A strategic or foundational piece of content around which you can build a communications campaign. For example, the release of a new community playbook (your content pillar) will require you to write a related blog post, host a community call to discuss its contents with members, and share it via social media and your newsletter mailing list.

Content and programming audit

A careful and methodical assessment of everything you create for your community. It includes factual information about each item, as well as how each product or activity meets the stated goals of the community. The goal of an audit is to determine what you have and whether it’s strategically aligned with the community’s goals, as well as what you might be missing.


Activities that you organize for your members at the whole-community or sub-community level. Programming includes regular meetings, conferences, online forum discussions, and working groups. 


Any written, audio or visual materials you make that are related to the functioning of your community. Content includes blog posts, news articles, reports, infographics, photos, videos, podcasts etc.

Relationship dashboard

A secure database or spreadsheet that tracks a community manager’s interactions with key members of a community. Often the lightweight solution for a community manager when starting or bootstrapping a community, and may be superseded by investing in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.