Session at the Community Leadership Summit on Sunday, July 19 at 4:30 in Seesion 2
One approach to building a new group: contact all the people you know who might be interested. Another approach: think of who acts as a leader: who takes on projects, whom other people go to when trying to get things done, etc.
Sequence that community organizers in the Saul Alinsky style go through: one-on-one meetings, then house meetings of six to ten people who are in an institution such as a church or union. In both cases, ask what keeps people up at night or what would make them spend time outside of their jobs and families. Then hold large convocations to choose issues to work on.
Some problems to watch for: don't let poisonous individuals dominate, because good people leave. In particular, don't let "good old boy" behavior go on, because women will abandon the group. Code of conduct valuable to let people know that certain standards are expected.
Holding a conference or other get-together, even if it is successful and everybody loves it, doesn't generate community. For instance, going out to a bar didn't help to build community. People must be emotionally connected. Build emotional bonds so that people feel empathy and want to help each other.
We ourselves continue because we are emotionally connected and committed.
Offer incentives and rewards for continuing participation.
Meetings can build bonds, but also create cliques. When a new person comes and everybody else is very chummy, the new person may feel uncomfortable. Try inviting coworkers so there are always some new people.
When someone travels, he or she should let the locals know and try to have an informal meet-up. Locals who wouldn't normally come may show up and become more connected. They may feel more comfortable being new because they know an outsider is there, so it won't be as cliquey.
Weekend events: hold a geek picnic where families can have fun. Good to bring together different groups in such informal meetups.
Meetup is proprietary and costs money, but it does provide good tools for attracting people and keeping them connected. The comment feature helps the group develop a personality and people feel connected at something resembling a personal level. Postings can let you know what to plan next.
Final advice: try something outside of your comfort zone.