11.13.2014

Andrew Hyde took the stage with a very big question (and a picture on his slide deck of a sloth dressed as an astronaut): What is community?

Is community geographical? Is it about your tight-knit friend groups? Or is it about what you wear (certainly, those who wear Canadian tuxedos belong in a special community of their own…)?

Having built Startup Weekend and expanded it into a global phenomenon that happens in 142 countries with 70 employees, Andrew argues that a community is about taking a chance and putting something out into the world with others. It’s an incredibly personal experience you create, and you’re putting a piece of yourself out in the world each time you attempt to build a community.

According to Andrew, Startup Weekend started “with a sh*tty Wordpress theme and a few beers” and has grown steadily ever since. For him, it was always about bringing together friends to build things together and to, hopefully, change some lives in the process.

“That’s a pretty creepy thing to want to do though, isn’t it? To change total strangers’ lives? To say ‘I want to make a fundamental difference in the lives of people I’ve never met?” He joked.

The 4 Pillars of Community

1. Communities are Collaborative

Every community needs to take into consideration the efforts of each of its members. “The minute you tell people what they have to do, you lose the right to be a community.” Instead, Andrew implored us to celebrate entropy and to be malleable.

2. Communities are Welcoming

You need to welcome people warmly to each event or community initiative you create. Andrew suggests signing up for 5 different communities and observing how you are welcomed. Do you feel a sense of belonging? Do you feel like you have a new group of people to talk to? You must keep your doors open.

3. Communities are Evolving

You’re going to make a lot of mistakes as a community builder. Andrew admits that he totally forgot to provide food for his first Startup Weekends. He also didn’t charge people for those first events, thinking money was “evil,” he joked. You must embrace learning and change. “Sometimes even with good intent, you’ll fall on your face. Always be learning.”

4. Communities are Not Owned

You don’t own your community. Thinking that you can tell people what to do and give out orders is a falsity. Instead, go back to pillar one and be collaborative. In addition, your community members are members of other communities as well. It’s important to bear this in mind. They can and will choose to come and go.

The 3 Characteristics of a Strong Community

  1. Everyone needs to feel welcome.
  2. Everyone is valued.
  3. Everyone can be complex.

With events and community initiatives, you put forth your style and intent into the world, Andrew argues. That’s the beauty of community and why it’s a beautiful thing to build.

Andrew left the audience with a call to action, as any natural community leader would: “The world is really malleable. It takes leaders to make positive change. Take something, try it out, gather people, and make something beautiful.”

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Carrie Melissa Jones

Carrie Melissa Jones | @caremjo

Carrie is the COO and Founding Partner of CMX. She has built community at Chegg and Scribd and has consulted with community companies around the world. She lives in Seattle, WA with her pup, Bruce Wayne.