What is the Community Canvas?
It is a framework that will help you build a community, analyze a community or improve an existing community.
It is not a framework that provides you with the actual answers.
Every community is as unique as the humans in it. Therefore, even though most communities share a similar structure, the answers will be wildly different across different kinds of communities. However, we have tried to include general reflections and best practice in our Guidebook that will help you find the right answers.
What do we mean by “community” and who is this for?
If we have learned one thing in the last 15 years of building communities, it is that the word “community” means something different to every person.
For us, a community is a type of organization that brings people together and makes them feel like they belong. It ideally gives them an identity that they proudly share and it provides a framework to trust each other more, support each other more, collaborate more and build more meaningful relationships.
That’s why we have developed the Canvas for anyone who brings people together with the intention of creating meaningful, long-lasting relationships among them. We hope this framework will be useful for people running a diverse set of organizations, such as fan clubs, HR departments, alumni organizations, startup incubators, the local chamber of commerce, fellowship programs, weekly meetups of outdoor enthusiasts, religious communities, schools and universities, non profits, the soccer club around the corner, summer camps, yearly conferences for pediatric doctors, co-working spaces, social networks for people who care about meditation, sororities, a group of enthusiastic World of Warcraft gamers, monthly dinners to talk about how it feels to have lost a loved one, the local chapter of volunteers for a national political organization, the residents of a small neighborhood, the online forum of a tech startup’s most active users, a group of entrepreneurs who support each other, a union of public servants, or the international association of coffee lovers.
Why did we create it?
The world needs more meaningful communities!
We have been building and participating in communities for 15 years and have found tremendous joy and value in them. When humans come together in a meaningful way, magic happens. Communities create trust, seed lifelong friendships, encourage collaborations, spark ideas, unlock resources and give people a sense of home and safety. In a meaningful community we feel that we belong, we are reminded that we are not alone and that we are surrounded by people who care about us.
Communities have been around for as long as humanity exists, but in today’s global world, where many feel isolated, lonely and divided, strong communities are more needed, and can be more powerful, than ever. Allowing like-minded people to come together and interact can help us tackle big challenges, bridge differences and unleash creativity. This lead us to ask ourselves: how can we help other people build more meaningful communities themselves? How does one actually “build a community”?
How we created the Canvas
To answer this question we set out on a journey three years ago to develop a framework that could support people who build communities. Our aspiration was to find the underlying questions and patterns that create this sense of belonging in most communities, no matter if in a Fortune 500 corporation, a tennis club or an urban neighborhood. In those years we have looked at hundreds of communities, talked to some of the world’s best community builders and tried to distill everything we have learned in our own experiences. And the result is this Community Canvas.
We hope that our Canvas will provide a unified template to create more and stronger communities. If you run an organization and the canvas is creating value for you, or if you see ways how we can improve it, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!
A Sincere Thank You
The development of this Canvas would never have been possible without the countless hours of insights and feedback provided by so many community builders across the world - we are incredibly grateful for your contributions and we continue to learn so much from you. We owe this Canvas to your generosity and the amazing work you all do!
We hope that by making the Canvas freely accessible to any community builder - aspiring or existing - we get to share your knowledge and kindness with the world.
Special thanks to Christine Lai, Casper ter Kuile, Angie Thurston, David Spinks, Alex Simon, Daniel Ospina, Mathias Jakobsen, Scott Shigeoka, Anton Chernikov, Ryan Fix, Michel Bachmann, Nettra Pan, James McBennett, Konstantina Zoehrer, Omri Baumer, and all participants of the Community Canvas workshops!
Lastly, we look at the Canvas as work in progress and we are truly thankful for any feedback or advice you might have on how we can improve future versions. Learn more about our open questions and please reach out, thank you!