Community Organizing Lessons for Science Community Managers

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Melissa Varga looks at the challenges of switching community platforms.

Posted by Melissa Varga, Outreach Associate and Online Community Manager at Union of Concerned Scientists 

South Dunedin community art project. Organised by Malcam Trust Wilkie Road, South Dunedin.
South Dunedin community art project” by Paul Allen under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Following the 2016 election, we saw a huge increase in interest and engagement from  scientists around the country who wanted to get more involved in advocacy, policy, and public engagement. At the Union of Concerned Scientists, we saw a record influx in the number of Science Network members, as well as high levels of engagement around advocacy actions—not just opportunities from our organization, but rallies and letters organized by other groups as well. In light of this I’ve been thinking a lot about the overlap between scientist engagement and community management, and how organizing skills are important for both. Building off of CEFP Fellow Rosanna Volchok’s blog post, here are a few more ways that community management is a model of community organizing.

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Leadership: The Art and Skill of Mobilizing One’s Community to Action

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, in part one of a collaborative two part series, Fellow Rosanna Volchok shares her thoughts on the similarities between community engagement and community organizing, as well as the importance of recognizing leadership skills in community managers.

Posted by Rosanna Volchok, Manager, Network Engagement at the New York Academy of Sciences

Flock of Ducks Flying Overhead
Flock of Ducks Flying Overhead” by Don DeBold under CC BY 2.0

When one thinks about fast-paced work, community engagement may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But ask the Fellows in the CEF Program and I am certain that many (if not most) would agree that effective community managers must be both agile and adaptable to change. The beauty, then, of the CEFP is that it provides those of us working in scientific community engagement with the space and time to reflect upon our roles. These meditations, in turn, allow us to define what it is that makes our work both unique and important to the communities we represent. In reflecting on my own role, I keep coming back to this idea that community management can be viewed–and perhaps should be viewed–as another model of community organizing. Blame my background in public service and advocacy, but I’m inclined to think that us Fellows are all community organizers no matter the title listed on our business cards.

That said, if we want to make the distinction between community management and community organizing (and many do), drawing parallels between these two fields has helped me to understand the critical role that leadership plays in my day-to-day work. Cultivating the art and skill of leadership is essential to mobilizing one’s community to action.

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The Value of #Welcome, part 2: How to prepare 40 new community members for an unconference

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Stefanie Butland follows up on her earlier pieces about welcoming community members and running an unconference with more specific advice.

Posted by Stefanie Butland, Community Manager at rOpenSci, – Open Tools for Open Research

I’ve raved about the value of extending a personalized welcome to new community members and I recently shared six tips for running a successful hackathon-flavoured unconference. Building on these, I’d like to share the specific approach and (free!) tools I used to help prepare new rOpenSci community members to be productive at our unconference. My approach was inspired directly by our AAAS CEFP training in community engagement. Specifically, 1) one mentor said that the most successful conference they ever ran involved having one-to-one meetings with all participants prior to the event, and 2) prior to our in-person AAAS-CEFP training, we completed an intake questionnaire that forced us to consider things like “what do you hope to get out of this” and “what do you hope to contribute”.

Continue reading The Value of #Welcome, part 2: How to prepare 40 new community members for an unconference

Six tips for running a successful unconference

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Stefanie Butland shares tips for fostering in-person relationships in an online community with an annual “unconference”.

Posted by Stefanie Butland, Community Manager at rOpenSci, – Open Tools for Open Research

rOpenSci unconference attendees
Attendees at the May 2017 rOpenSci unconference. Photo credit: Nistara Randhawa

In May 2017, I helped run a wildly successful “unconference” that had a huge positive impact on the community I serve. rOpenSci is a non-profit initiative enabling open and reproducible research by creating technical infrastructure in the form of staff- and community-contributed software tools in the R programming language that lower barriers to working with scientific data sources on the web, and creating social infrastructure through a welcoming and diverse community of software users and developers. Our 4th annual unconference brought together 70 people to hack on projects they dreamed up and to give them opportunities to meet and work together in person. One third of the participants had attended before, and two thirds were first-timers, selected from an open call for applications. We paid all costs up front for anyone who requested this in order to lower barriers to participation.

It’s called an “unconference” because there is no schedule set before the event – participants discuss project ideas online in advance and projects are selected by participant-voting at the start. I’m sharing some tips here on how to do this well for this particular flavour of unconference.

Continue reading Six tips for running a successful unconference

How do I become a “community-whatsit”?

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Malin Sandström discusses her path to defining her community manager career.

Posted by Malin Sandström, Community Engagement Officer at INCF (International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility) 

Magnifying glass highlighting the word "Jobs" in a newspaper
Job Listings” by www.flazingo.com under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Don’t worry about understanding everything at once, NOBODY has the right background for this” said my MSc thesis supervisor, a dozen or so years ago. Then, the advice applied to mathematical modeling of the biochemical networks involved in learning and memory, an area that came with heaps of dense academic papers peppered with acronyms and incomprehensibly condensed descriptions of experimental protocols. Now, that advice applies equally well to community management, an area of expertise I did not even know existed in science until a few years ago.

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Top social strategies for community managers: Social Shake-Up Recap

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Rebecca Polk shares her takeaways from the Social Shake-Up Show, a social media conference held in Atlanta May 22-24, 2017.

Posted by Rebecca Polk, Manager, Membership Programs, Marketing and Communications at the American Society of Agronomy.

Rebecca Polk with two others at the session on customer journey maps.
Rebecca Polk (right) at the session on customer journey maps. Source: PR News

A Community Engagement Manager will find they wear many “hats”, creating content while managing tasks related to scientific collaboration, meeting planning, website development, social media planning and scheduling. I recently had the privilege to attend the Social Shake-Up and learn from 3 days of sessions and networking events. From this experience, I have identified several key social strategies that were insightful and I feel others could benefit from as well.

Continue reading Top social strategies for community managers: Social Shake-Up Recap

Knowledge brokering part 2: Are community managers knowledge brokers?

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, in part two of a two part series on knowledge brokering, Fellow Elisha Wood-Charlson breaks down the similarities and differences between community managers and knowledge brokers.

Posted by Elisha Wood-Charlson, Communications Project Manager at the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education

Hand with skills written on it
5 ways to build your people skills” by Abhijit Bhaduri under CC BY 2.0

In part 1 of this series, I explored the concept of a knowledge broker by defining the role/trait and describing some of the best practices. For this section, I wanted to explore the potential for shared skills between knowledge brokers and Scientific Community Managers (SCMs).

Continue reading Knowledge brokering part 2: Are community managers knowledge brokers?

What is Knowledge Brokering?

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, in part one of a two part series, Fellow Elisha Wood-Charlson introduces the role of knowledge brokering.

Posted by Elisha Wood-Charlson, Communications Project Manager at the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education

Closeup of a metal plaque reading "Trust"
Trust” by Terry Johnston under CC BY 2.0

During Moment #1 of realizing I was becoming a “Community Engagement Manager”, I was introduced to the concept of a knowledge broker. At the time, I was a postdoc in Australia and “climate change” was not an acceptable phrase (sound familiar?). Knowledge brokering was about how scientists were involved in policy decisions. As Roger A Pielke, Jr. author of the book The Honest Broker: Making sense of science in policy and politics, explains on his blog,

“The defining characteristic of the honest broker is a desire to clarify, or sometimes to expand, the scope of options available for action.”

As part of the inaugural Community Engagement Fellow Program (CEFP) cohort, I have come to realize that these characteristics run deep in the small (but mighty) realm of scientific community managers (SCM).

Continue reading What is Knowledge Brokering?

The Value of #Welcome

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Stefanie Butland shares her experience welcoming new members to her community.

Posted by Stefanie Butland, Community Manager at rOpenSci, – Open Tools for Open Research

Hanging wooden sign that reads "Welcome"
“Welcome” by Nathan under CC BY-SA 2.0

In my training as a AAAS Community Engagement Fellow, I hear repeatedly about the value of extending a personal welcome to your community members. This seems intuitive, but last week I put this to the test. Let me tell you about my experience creating and maintaining a #welcome channel in a community Slack group.

Continue reading The Value of #Welcome

Dinner parties and sandpits: Intensive retreats to catalyze science collaborations

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, in the last of a three part series of reflections on the Science of Team Science 2017 conference, Fellow Jennifer Davison explores several intensive retreat models for scientific collaboration.

Posted by Jennifer Davison, Program Manager at Urban@UW

Food in bowls
Carefully selected ingredients make the best dinner-
and team building retreat. Credit: “Housewarming Party” by Mikko Kuhna, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The art and practice of providing specific conditions designed to spark novel projects is not new. Business incubators, science parks, and innovation districts are each designed to bring a diverse array of bright people into the same space and to facilitate their interaction, in order to trigger and support new collaborations. At Science of Team Science, many conversations explored how to cultivate research collaborations in a specific, similar way: through themed, time-constrained, highly curated, retreat-like events. I love these events when I’ve joined them, even though they may feel a bit scripted, because the potential of the partnerships and ideas is felt so strongly. And as program manager for Urban@UW, one of my roles is to encourage such collaborations, through as efficient means as possible. So I was interested in both the best practices for setting up such events, and the evidence for their effectiveness.

Continue reading Dinner parties and sandpits: Intensive retreats to catalyze science collaborations