Empowering Growth through Co-Creation: Insights into CMX Summit 2023's "Shine" Theme

Ana Levidze
June 27, 2023
June 27, 2023

Spring has come and gone, but the excitement for CMX Summit 2023: Shine continues to grow. As we eagerly await the arrival of community professionals from around the globe in Redwood City, California, we can't help but feel a thrill of anticipation.

This year's summit is all about building a community that shines, and we're doing it by focusing on three core pillars: The Future of community, Embracing Co-creation, and Building Sustainable Communities. In case you missed it, we've already delved into the first pillar and had some real "aha" moments. Now, it's time to shine a light on co-creation and explore how it can move us toward a brighter, more sustainable future.

At its core, community building has always been about co-creation - coming together to build supportive and empowering spaces. But what does it really mean to embrace co-creation in the context of community building? Simply put, it's about empowering your community members and organizations to co-create for sustainable growth and engagement. It's about harnessing the power of collaboration to create a shared sense of ownership and drive lasting impact.

What's truly exciting is how we're seeing a shift in the industry towards standardization and coming together as community professionals to build a shared understanding and language. This was evident in our recent 2023 Community Industry Report, where we saw that despite the odds, we pulled back into the center and our commitment to building the industry together.

However, there's still work to be done. One surprising find from our report was the lack of industry standardization in automation tools and data aggregation. With only 36% of community professionals currently using automation tools and very little standardization across tech stacks, it's difficult for community managers to collaborate and share best practices with each other.

So, what can we do about it? We need to come together as community builders to co-create the shared knowledge and definitions necessary for sustainable growth and engagement. Thought leaders like Rosie Sherry, James Cattell, Nikki Thibodeau, and Bri Leever are collaborating on initiatives to create a Community Curriculum and Community Townhall to foster this shared understanding.

At CMX Summit 2023, we'll continue the conversation around co-creation and explore what that means for building communities. To kick off our exploration of co-creation, we interviewed some thought leaders from our network to get their insights on the topic. Here's what they had to say:

How can community professionals effectively empower their members and organizations to co-create for sustainable growth and engagement while also leveraging co-creation to create relevance and drive sustainable community growth and engagement, and what steps can the industry take to establish standardized language and practices for better collaboration and a shared vision?

Bri Leever, Community Strategist at Ember 

Bri Leever, CMX Summit 2023: Shine

I think the first important step is to identify where you need collaboration and who needs to be consulted for that collaboration. For any project, I really clearly outline who is the one person who is ultimately accountable for this project getting done? Who will be responsible for completing any work for this project? Who needs to be consulted (read: collaboration!)? And then, ultimately, who needs to be informed of the results?

One thing I've seen work really well is at the beginning of a collaborative experience, take 5 minutes to set up a temporary social contract for the time. Open a Google doc and share your screen and create two sections: 

What works well:

What doesn't work well:

Ask members: Think back to some of your best collaborative experiences and some that weren't so great. What do you need in order to work well on this team? Write down the bullet points. In the end, ask, do we need further discussion on any of these bullets?

If you collaborate multiple times, bring out the social contract at the beginning of each session, read each bullet out loud, and ask, "Is there anything we need to add or adjust here to help us collaborate better together?"

Gabrielle Leith, Community Manager at Grapevine

Gabrielle Leith, CMX summit 2023

The Grapevine community is made up of over 50,000 people across the United States, making an impact through Giving Circles. Giving Circles are when a group of like-minded individuals donate to a shared pool and collaboratively decide which nonprofits will receive their collective donation. This is done on an ongoing basis, so there's support for the causes and issues that matter most to members.

To date, the collective giving movement has moved over $1.29B globally  — often to smaller, more diverse, and local nonprofits. The Grapevine community has contributed over $23M to 2,400+ nonprofits of that total. The success and growth of this grassroots movement are in our members being able to easily start and grow their Giving Circles. As a result, strategic collaboration with our community is essential.

  1. Align internally on the goals of community collaboration. Bring together all key stakeholders of your team to be strategic about your community collaboration. This ensures your asks are clear and also manageable for members. Ensuring one person has oversight is essential. Don't be afraid to push back when there are too many asks going out — you know your community best!
  2. Decide how you want to internally collect and discuss community insights. Be strategic about how you collect information. There's nothing worse than spending time to collect insights, and then it gets lost in the shuffle. We use Hubspot Playbooks when conducting community conversations, so it's tracked for everyone. We also have dedicated spaces for our community members to give us product and campaign feedback, like this Grapevine Kitchen Cabinet group we established.

Make it official. Earlier this year, we launched the Giving Circle Growth Council. We identified members of our community with marketing and PR backgrounds to see if they wanted to lend their expertise to help grow the collective giving movement. Out of this came a group of 20 motivated individuals who officially became our Giving Circle Growth Council. We worked closely with them at the start to establish what they wanted out of the group and met monthly to get their insights on various projects and experiments we're running to grow the movement. We recognize them with the distinction of Marketing Professional for Good (which was a title they collectively decided on!).

Piper Wilson, Community Services Consultant with Higher Logic

Piper Wilson CMX Summit 2023

The first step to co-creation, or collaboration, between an organization and a community, is to get executive buy-in. Some consider buy-in to mean, “I won’t get in your way.” I hold a higher standard. Whatever happens as a result of work in the community will be duly considered and acted upon when possible. If we don’t have that executive buy-in, it is better not to start a collaboration project between your community and your organization.

The next thing is to find suitable partners for co-creation, and we start by studying the groups our potential partners belong to so that we can understand their motivations. 

Fictional example: Rohit from the community may be passionate about the product and want to share his ideas to improve it. Sue is on the Support Team. She wants to reduce the number of repetitive tickets that cross her desk every day. She believes this repetition is the result of usability issues. The community manager notices Rohit and Sue have overlapping pain points and brings them together to brainstorm ideas. Rohit and Sue are not limited to product ideas. They could, for example, suggest better onboarding, social media campaigns with tips, Ask Me Anything sessions, etc.

After the little brainstorming group gets a win, they can invite others to participate, creating a larger working group. The CM can also create different working groups with loftier goals which can have a greater impact on the community, the product, and the organization.

So how might we standardize this collaboration model across widely disparate organizations and communities?

I suggest starting with a 3-person model like the one I described. You just need the right motivations in the mix.

In this model, you need the following:

  1. A community member - They are one of the people living with the situation or using the product. They care about their experience and want to share.
  2. A Community Manager - They act as the intersection person or connector. They care about the community, its members, and the organization.
  3. A customer-facing person from the organization - These can be from Support, Sales, Marketing, etc. They care about the organization and the member or customer experience.

Each person in this model brings a unique perspective to the table, but just like Rohit’s and Sue’s situation, those points of view intersect in interesting ways. When a team with different interests works together, they can find solutions that wouldn’t otherwise emerge.

Hold your organization’s C-Suite to a high standard. A community is not a silo or a money pit. It is part of a symbiotic relationship that can raise the organization to new heights if they work together.

Shawna James, Sr. Manager, Community at PreSales Collective

Shawna James CMX Summit 2023

Empowerment begins with understanding, understanding begins with listening, and listening begins with empathy. To me, empathy is "feelings in action." To say you understand a community member's struggle with the product, program, or experience on the platform is one thing, but to create a system of feedback, generous updates, and clear communication is another. People contribute to making organizations better when they feel a sense of safety and like their contributions will actually go somewhere. I think the industry can establish a clearer understanding of the different kinds of communities that exist and their "why." I still feel like we are operating in a homogenous mindset with one path of rules which often excludes communities at various phases, types, and purposes. I think developing a global understanding of nuance would be helpful to make sure builders are equipped to ask smarter questions of their peers.

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Shine at CMX Summit 2023

CMX Summit 2023 is the perfect place to learn from the experts and build your community's future. With a focus on co-creation, you'll have the opportunity to gain insights from thought leaders who are pushing the boundaries of community building, connect with other community professionals from around the world, share your own experiences and learn from others, and develop your skills and knowledge to build a more sustainable and engaged community.

Don't miss your chance to be a part of this incredible event. Register for CMX Summit 2023 today!

Ana Levidze
Community Content Manager
June 27, 2023
June 27, 2023

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