An Interactive Discussion on the Future of Community Design and Leadership

An Interactive Discussion on the Future of Community Design and Leadership

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Last Thursday morning, I gathered online with a few of you to discuss a research study on online community design (Don’t worry if you missed the discussion, the notes from our conversation are now in this Google Doc). This is the takeaway from our discussion that has been on my mind ever since:

As more of the world comes online, our approaches to design and leadership will need to grow more decentralized and localized to remain both inclusive and effective. 

That's probably not news to you, but the idea does feel more urgent today as the next billion people are quickly coming online. 

Most of the world does not communicate and disseminate information the way the western world does (there is no one-size-fits-all communication model within that ultra-broad category either). Decentralizing our leadership and revisiting community design fundamentals won't be easy work. It's not going to be as simple as revising our Community Guidelines, which many community platforms did this year.

When I think of the challenge ahead, I often think about how hard I work to communicate with my partner (really really hard), and how little I know about human communication when it comes down to it. And yet how nothing else seems more worthwhile than trudging through the muck and mire of human communication and intimacy.

What I'm currently in the process of learning about leadership and designing communities is three-fold:

  1. The easy way to solve the problem is never nuanced enough. 

  2. We should not try to solve problems on our own when we are not directly impacted by them.

  3. Total safety and non-conflict are not ideal states that any of us should hope to reach. I want to take risks and know that when I mess up, my community will help me dust myself back off. That is not about individual resilience; I don't want to be expected to be resilient all alone.

What kind of leaders do communities like this require? What kind of design decisions do they make? How do we prepare ourselves to lead (or step back and let others lead) over the long-term?

These are the questions I'm holding as we enter 2019, and I can't wait to uncover some of the answers and share inspiring examples with you over the next year.

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