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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In-person community events

Successful in-person programming is a feature of many communities – and even primarily virtual communities may have an annual conference so that members can meet face-to-face. But how do you design events that are welcoming from the outset and that promote enjoyable, inclusive interactions between attendees?

Guidebook

The CALM events project team of Arne Bakker, Chiara Bertigpaglia, Megan Carter, Liz Guzy, Leslie Hsu, and Ann Meyer from the CEFP2019 cohort created a comprehensive guidebook to organizing in-person events.

CALM events guidebook for building community through events

by Arne Bakker, Chiara Bertipaglia, Megan Carter, Elizabeth Guzy, Leslie Hsu and Ann Meyer

The CALM events guidebook is a comprehensive multi-chapter guide to planning and hosting events of different formats in order to build community.

Blog posts

Event formats

Icebreakers and welcomes

  • Pre-event interviews – In How to prepare 40 new community members for an unconference CEFP2017 Fellow, Stefanie Butland outlines the pre-event preparations that she carried out to help new members of the community feel prepared and welcome.
  • Breaking the ice well – CEFP Fellows Allen Pope, Amber Budden, and Stefanie Butland and mentor Aidan Budd discuss facilitating interpersonal community interactions in person. In part one they describe several icebreaker activities and in part two they describe how to bring your community along with you in what can sometimes be a nerve-wracking activity for a community manager!

Event programming

Leveraging anniversary programming & content to nurture community

In this post by CEFP2019 Fellow Camille Santistevan, Associate Director of Public Relations at the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY, she explores how an organization’s anniversary can be an opportunity to nurture community. Camille shares 5 tips for success and 3 potential challenges to anticipate.

Community-first event planning

Is your scientific organization celebrating an anniversary sometime soon? If so, how will you be celebrating?

In the higher education and non-profit sectors, anniversaries are often used to launch major fundraising campaigns. Central leadership, in concert with the development office, tend to spend a lot of time, energy, and resources to organize a big bash for external stakeholders, with the internal community often left as an afterthought.

The ASRC Open House event. Image credit: ASRC.

How can we re-engineer some of this content and programming to supercharge our scientific communities? Below are some ideas both big and small for how community managers can leverage anniversary activities to nurture community. 

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