2013/06/21

Community Builder -- Building Communities Around Focused Emerging Topics

The world is constantly changing and evolving. This fact will never change.

One aspect of our evolving world is that new topics and technologies are continually emerging. Some emerging topics are the result of intentional breakthroughs, while other topics have a more serendipitous or unexpected beginning. As more people become involved or interested in a particular topic, a community will begin to form around that emerging topic.

The number of people initially involved with an emerging topic can range from just one person (for a serendipitous discovery or extremely-outside-the-box thinking) to dozens or hundreds of people (for large industrial or government projects). As the impact and financial value of the emerging topic becomes clear, more people become involved in the topic, and a community of practice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_practice, begins to form around the topic. The concept of community building, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_building, applies to more than just building a community around an emerging topic, but has important lessons for new communities of practice, especially as regards social capital, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_capital. Effectively building a new community can increase the number of participants to thousands or even millions of people.

Communities are built around emerging topics through a combination of:
  1. Intentional community building efforts by early participants in the emerging topic areas
  2. Organic community building catalyzed and enabled by a critical mass of people getting involved with the emerging topic area
Prior to an emerging topic reaching a critical mass of participants, there are opportunities to be an early intentional community builder. The most effective early intentional community builders will be one or more of the following:
  1. Highly passionate and knowledgeable about the emerging topic
  2. Employed in the emerging topic industry sector
  3. Funded or employed to build the community
Being an early intentional community builder has potential benefits for the builder, which include:
  1. Be regionally, nationally or globally recognized as a domain expert
  2. Develop knowledge, tools and products related to the emerging topic
  3. Build a global network of interesting people involved in the emerging topic
  4. Start a new company in the emerging topic field
  5. Be hired by organizations involved in or interested in the emerging topic
  6. Generate revenue from a website about the emerging topic
My past opportunities to build communities include the topics below. Those opportunities were not taken advantage of because they came early in my journey to become a community builder, because I wasn't employed in the industry sector, or because of the lack of funding to support the time and tools needed to build a community for the emerging topic.
  1. Barcamps / unconferences
  2. Supercapacitors
  3. Nano Nonwovens
  4. Nanotechnology
  5. Electric aircraft
  6. GPU Supercomputing
  7. 3D printing
  8. Open source hardware
  9. Fab Labs / hackerspaces / makerspaces
  10. Chromebooks
  11. SEO
  12. Hyperlocal websites
  13. Civilian aerospace
The future holds a multitude of opportunities for me to build communities for emerging topics, some of which are apparent now and others which will be uncovered by keeping abreast of technology news and by focusing on emerging trends and technologies. Examples of future opportunities include:
  1. Metro DEMO Communities
  2. Teen Ideas Lab initiative
  3. Community building for emerging topics
  4. Retired alumni makerspaces at universities
  5. Metro MC2 Labs
  6. Optimized Global Innovation Networks (Follow-The-Sun teams)
  7. Optimized Regional Employment Ecosystems
  8. Diversified free online services suite
  9. Wearable computing and electronics
  10. Telecollaboration / telepresence
  11. Widespread consumer and prosumer video editing
  12. Holons
  13. ?????????????
Reasons to participate in a community around the emerging topic are to communicate with like-minded people, to learn or share information about the topic and to participate in the development of knowledge, tools and products for the emerging topic. A few of the components to achieve these goals in new communities for emerging topics are:
  1. Website
  2. Relevant curated news
  3. Blog
  4. Community mailing list
  5. Network of relevant contacts
  6. Unconferences and other free or low-cost activities
Below is a sample action plan for building  new community:
  1. Create and maintain Google doc for emerging topic
  2. Clearly define emerging topic around which community will be built
  3. Do extensive online research
  4. Identify potential revenue streams related to the emerging topic
  5. Begin curating news for emerging topic
  6. Develop overview (250 word) and background (2 - 10 pages) for emerging topic
  7. Develop situation analysis for emerging topic
  8. Blog about emerging topic
  9. Identify pain points or breakthroughs which caused topic to emerge
  10. Identify market size for emerging topic
  11. Identify key people and organizations involved with emerging topic
  12. Build personal network for emerging topic
  13. Identify top online resources for emerging topic
My next steps toward building a new community are:
  1. Identify potential emerging topics of high interest to me in addition to the ones listed above.
  2. Prioritize the emerging topics with respect to the ones where funding or relevant industry employment are realistic near-term possibilities. A secondary priority rating criteria is for those topics that are of high enough interest to me that funding or industry employment are not required.
(This post will be updated occasionally as I identify additional emerging topics of interest...)


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