Rebuilding and Re-energising a community

How do you rebuild a community?

You founded a community, it was exciting and energising in the beginning and then, somehow along the way, you lost the passion. That is part of the normal cycle of communities.

As some of you may know I now run and develop communities for a living at the Government Digital Service. I run a community of practice for the Product Management and Delivery Management professions but I also ended up helping to start the Muslims at GDS community and co-founded the Muslamic Makers community

Each of these communities are at different stages in their journey, and it’s interesting that now I’m in this unique position I’m able to take things I learn in my day job and apply them to Muslamic Makers — and vice versa.

Muslamic Makers was founded over 3 years ago by me and Murtaza. It came out of a need of often being the only Muslims in our industry and we wanted to create a safe space that was inclusive, booze-free and focussed on bringing out role models in the community.

It’s not my community it’s our community

I can’t help but emphasise this. I love saying I co-founded this community or that community but the Muslamic Makers community simply would not exist without the people who are willing to be a part of it.

We’ve achieved a lot in the past 3 years which I’m proud of but also at the same time I also recognise how we have struggled to grow. As a team we have entered various life stages which has meant how much time we could commit to Muslamic Makers has changed.

How do we make Muslamic Makers self-sustain beyond the founding team was a question that’s been on my mind for a while.

The last few months have been hard, I was open and honest and vulnerable with the community about the mistakes we’ve made, how we’re learning and how we really need them. We entered a scarcity mindset and in doing so the quality dropped. Going forward we couldn’t lose that “MM vibe” and it was important to remember why we exist and our values.

Consistency allowed our community to flourish but keeping that going was getting harder — so we decided to turn to the community.

A picture of the author presenting
A picture of the author presenting

Scaling beyond the founding team and becoming community led

We’ve done plenty of events but most of the time they had guest speakers with a bit of networking time for attendees at the start and end. There are some people who keep the conversation going on our slack community but we’ve never really just had a session inviting the community in.

So that is what we did. In collaboration with IDEAN we held a workshop. This wasn’t going to be any kind of workshop, we wanted to enable people to take ownership and we wanted to help make those ideas a reality by facilitating and removing blockers.

So after giving a bit of background we did a quick fire session on the values that attendees thought Muslamic Makers should have (we’ll use this to update our manifesto but also build guidelines). We asked the community about their goals? Why are they part of Muslamic Makers and how can we help them?

Keeping all of that in mind, we then we started to generate ideas for future initiatives. We had mash-up cards made kindly created by Katy and Ben from IDEAN who were our facilitators for the evening. With these cards attendees had to use pick a type of activity, a word, and a frequency, we then asked each group to then fill in a template sheet of one or two ideas.

We then asked the community to go around and read each idea and take a seat next to the one they were most passionate about and wanted to work on for the rest of the evening. There was naturally some repetition, especially around mentoring. The room was buzzing mashallah. Attendees were asked to figure out the basics of how it would work. We asked each team to fill in the following template and then present the initiative back.

a picture of a team presenting back
Team Social presenting back

We used mentimete.com to capture comments and feedback during each presentation.

So the ideas that came out were

  1. A mentoring scheme: A simple google form of people happy to be contacted for advice or mentor someone but with the caveat of also leaving feedback to make sure we getting good quality. This team also pitched an idea of having two speed-mentoring events a year as another way for people to meet each other and support. What I really liked about this idea was that they thought about how to remove the administrative burden and it’s a very basic way of enabling people to support each other.
  2. Socials: There tends to be a good 2–3 month gap between our Muslamic Makers events, this team wanted to find a way to keep those relationships going and allow people to build connections in a fun social setting. The first social is happening this Friday and then there is another planned for November!
  3. Hackathon: A weekend event to solve a common problem in a community, what was great here is that we are currently in discussion about putting on an event in the new year and now I know who is passionate about it I can rope them into it!
  4. Book-Club: People want to read more but they also want to be held accountable so by creating a book-club to share books and discuss what they learned will hopefully make people read more.
  5. The Elephant in the room: An event twice a year to address failure as well as taboo events — it’s a great idea and one we can easily make a reality
  6. 20% Time: Finding a way to connect the community with each other by hosting a pitching event to enable people to collaborate.

Empower the community

While these ideas were being discussed, I went around and created slack channels for the people involved in them. There is an energetic high and it’s important to ride it and let the community make it happen. So after the event we’re on it as a team, asking the key questions and helping to facilitate to make it happen.

Stripping back to the basics, changing our role to facilitate and empower.

It really was a magical evening and I can already feel the difference in the community. Our slack has been buzzing, the mentoring team has been busy working on the alpha version, the socials are being pencilled in and thoughts around the hackathon are being shared. The workshop really is bringing the vision into a reality and I’m excited to see where the community takes this next.

Action:

If you want to work with Muslamic Makers on an event email muslamicmakers@gmail.com

If you’re Muslim and want to join our online slack community. Just fill in this form.

Otherwise follow us on Twitter and just share and support! @MuslamicMakers

@muslamicmakers co-founder | @adaventures Angel | Fellowship Programme Manager at @GDSteam | @WCMTUK fellow. Full of random rambles.