October’s community call recap – Supporting community champions and running champions programs

Our October call focused on the role of community champions in creating engaged, welcoming, and productive communities. This post includes a summary of the call, as well as video clips of presentations from Vanessa Fairhurst (Crossref Ambassadors program), Iratxe Puebla (ASAPbio Fellows program), and Ailís O’Carroll (eLife Community Ambassadors program). 

Our next call will take place on 17 November 2021 at 4pm UTC / 11am EST (note: upcoming daylight savings time changes may affect the time of this call in your region). We’ll be focusing on community governance models. iCal | Google Calendar

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October’s community call: Community champions programs

This month, we’re considering the role of community champions (also known as community ambassadors or, sometimes, fellows) in successful community management, and how community champions programs can intentionally work with emergent leaders to meet the needs of a community or organization. 

Join us for our monthly community call on Wednesday, 20 October at 3pm UTC / 11am EDT to learn more about champions and some of the programs that already exist – or are being planned –  within the STEM ecosystem. [Add to iCal or Google Calendar]

Our October call will focus on the role of community champions and how community managers can support and empower them through intentional programming. Image credit: CSCCE

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New CSCCE resource explores the role of champions in building and sustaining communities in STEM

Our latest guidebook explores the importance of supporting and encouraging the work of community champions, emergent leaders who take on additional roles within a community to ensure its success. The guidebook builds on our Community Participation Model, which describes how community members engage with community programming and the ways community managers can design activities and events that meet members where they are. It forms part two in a growing series of foundational resources, with more to come later this year.

What is a community champion? 

We define a community champion as: 

​​​​An emergent leadership role within a community in which a community member takes on more responsibility for the success, sustainability, and/or running of the community.

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First Birthday Series: CSCCE working groups and special interest groups

For our “First Birthday Series” of blog posts, we are taking some time to reflect on CSCCE’s community of practice, which turned one year old on 21 October 2020. Our first post summarized the community “by the numbers,” then we delved a little deeper into our programming offerings, and last week we discussed our resources and the importance of co-creating together. In this post, jointly authored by Communications Director, Katie Pratt and Center Director, Lou Woodley, we take a look at the scaffolding needed to support working groups and special interest groups – and review what ours have done so far.  

The rationale for working groups and special interest groups

Why might a community decide to establish working groups and/or special interest groups? In an earlier post we discussed community-level programming – activities that are general enough that they are designed to be of interest and value to all members and to create opportunities to get to know one another and identify commonalities. However, within any large enough community, there will also be differentiation into sub-groups who want to focus more deeply on a specific topic – perhaps as an area of professional development or something that supplements a project they need to deliver in their own community role. This differentiation into sub-groups also creates opportunities for emerging leaders within a community – those who are highly engaged and wish to take on more responsibility for advancing the overall mission of the community. It’s this combination of scaling, through the activities and empowerment of these emergent leaders, and dedicated group work that greatly enhances the ability of any community to make progress towards its overall mission. For these activities to be successful, community management is nonetheless needed to support emergent leaders and their groups in their activities.

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Announcing a new CSCCE working group – Community champions programs!

This week we’re launching a new CSCCE working group – for any STEM community managers planning or supporting community champions programs. 

What are community champions programs?

As a community manager, chances are you spend a significant amount of your time operating at the “whole community” level – devising shared programming such as community calls and also creating newsletters and other reinforcing communications to keep the group informed and aligned around the various programming and activities.

While that community-level alignment is crucially important, a community moves forward its mission when members are empowered to take on emergent leadership roles – which enables the community to grow, become more sustainable, and to advance specific projects together via working groups and other smaller-group activities. In the CSCCE Community Participation Model (see image below) we refer to this mode of member engagement as the CHAMPION mode – and we’re working to develop our own champion infrastructure as well as working with other communities such as The Carpentries to develop theirs.

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Ambassadors, Fellows, Champions, and More: What defines success in scientific community champions programs?

This post summarizes the report of the “Scientific Advocacy/Ambassador Programs Survey” by the 2017 Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP) Advocacy Ninjas project team (Melanie Binder, Heidi Laješić, Stephanie O’Donnell, Allen Pope, Gabrielle Rabinowitz, and Rosanna Volchok – with help from CSCCE Director Lou Woodley and former staff member, Rebecca Aicher) and was contributed by the authors.

Editorial note: Since the Advocacy Ninjas did their work and wrote up their report, we refined and published CSCCE’s Community Participation Model. In it, we describe a CHAMPION mode of participation, in which a community member is motivated to take on more responsibility for the success, sustainability, and/or running of the community. This might look like advocating for the community on social media, running a working group or local chapter, or taking the lead in creating and maintaining documentation to support the community. Champion programs, therefore, formalize or promote these activities, and offer recognition and training for members who participate. They empower emergent leaders, create nodes of trust within the community, and support myriad community needs and goals. Visit our new resource page for more.  

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Community champions programs

Once your community has begun to grow it’s likely that you’re going to need help from community members in running local events, working groups, technical workshops or other “community champion” activities that support the overall success of the community. But where do you start when planning for these activities?

Guidebooks, reports, and survey results

What are community champions?

Community champions are emergent leaders – members of a community who wish to take on additional activities in support of the community. Usually, to successfully support these individuals community managers organize a program in which the champions may alternatively be called fellows, ambassadors, or advocates.

To learn more generally about why champions are necessary for community success, check out the CSCCE Community Participation Guide, and its companion guide, which describe the CHAMPION mode in detail.

The CSCCE Community Participation Model: A framework to describe member engagement and information flow in STEM communities

by Lou Woodley and Katie Pratt

August 26, 2020

The CSCCE Community Participation Model describes four modes of member engagement that can occur within a community and one that can occur outside of it. This guidebook is intended to help you use the model to inform your community member engagement strategy.

The CSCCE Community Participation Model – Exploring the Champion mode


September 16, 2021

In this companion guidebook, part two, we focus in on the CHAMPION mode, in which emerging leaders within a community act in either informal or formal capacity to MAINTAIN, GROW, or EVOLVE the community.

What do community champion programs look like?

In 2017, the Advocacy Ninjas CEFP project team comprised of Stephanie O’Donnell, Heidi Olds, Allen Pope, Gabrielle Rabinowitz and Rosanna Volchok created a survey to better understand what champion programs (at the time, they referred to them as advocacy programs) look like within scientific communities.

They collected data from 37 scientific community managers who work at academic, non-profit, industry, and government sector organizations. They asked 22 questions that addressed the following areas:

  1. Overall Community and Membership Characteristics
  2. Advocacy Program Characteristics
  3. Recruitment for Advocacy Program
  4. Incentives and Support for Advocacy Program
  5. Success Metrics for Advocacy Program

They found, among other things: Older programs had the biggest budgets while newer programs offered more incentives for involvement; Program size, community size, and resources may be correlated; And some program characteristics hold similar across various budget sizes, while low budget programs tend to represent smaller communities with fewer internal resources.

For an overview of the project, watch this presentation from co-authors Rosanna Volchok and Allen Pope:

Download the full report:

Ambassadors, Champions, Fellows, and More: What defines success in scientific community Advocacy Programs?

by Rebecca Aicher, Melanie Binder, Heidi Laješić, Stephanie O’Donnell, Allen Pope, Gabrielle Rabinowitz, Rosanna Volchok, and Lou Woodley

September 18, 2020

This report presents data on the scope, characteristics and efficacy of ambassador programs in STEM, which was collected and analyzed by the CSCCE CEFP "Advocacy Ninjas" Project Team.

What motivates community champions or super-users?

The Busy Bees project team of the CEFP2019 cohort comprised of Toby Hodges, Naomi Penfold and Kathryne Woodle with support from Lou Woodley, created a survey to better understand the motivations of community super-users or ambassadors (which we now refer to as champions). You can learn more about the project from this presentation during the March 2020 community call.

Blog posts

Additional CSCCE resources

Resources for reuse

CSCCE staff have produced various guidelines and how to guides to support community champions within the CSCCE community of practice. The following resources are licensed CC BY and are available for reuse with attribution. We intend to share more resources in 2021 as our working group (see below) comes together.

Community champions working group

CSCCE has a newly-launched community champions programs working group. To find out more about the group, please drop us an email: info@cscce.org.