Making community impact that lasts

Running a community is a lot of hard work, it is a lot of fun but it is hard work. One can also decide themselves how much work they want to put into community, but I have felt that and seen that the more work you put in it, you will get unevenly more out of it.

So community work is not: work = value. It is more like: work^2 = value, but do not that work != hours

But that means that if you spend two hours and it turns out good, if you spend four hours it would turn out to be more than twice as good. In those two hours more you can help a few people more in-depth, you will have the time if one or two people reach out for help, or you can say that announce that you have time to help a few people. Creating those strong connections that makes a strong community.

Giving without expectation

Value is also created immensely when you give without expectation. Doing something not because you have to but because you care. Giving without expectation is a very generous act, doing something because you believe in it.

It can be quite human to think, "what do I get over it?", there are certain things in maslow hierarchy of needs that we need to have covered, so even though we all like to help everyone we still have to think about ourselves to have something to eat and safe place to sleep.

We can do something unpleasant for a while if we believe that it will help somebody or the thing we believe in, but it will not be something we can continue doing if we don't figure out what it brings to us personally.

"What more can people expect from me?"

I have organized CopenhagenJS since mid 2015 and at the start I didn't focus on it, I tried to do as many things as possible at the same time. I wanted to do good at work to help myself, improving my own skills to help myself, but I did notice that doing community work was a fun thing, something that also would allow me to grow.

The reason I started out going to meetups was I felt a need for belong somewhere, being together with likeminded where everyone would talk about the same topic with passion (in this case JavaScript), something I never had tried before moving to Copenhagen in the age 21.

I also didn't plan to organize events, I kind of felt into it. The first meetup I organized was about Docker and the reason why was I missed the first meetup and I really wanted to learn and connect about Docker. So I reach out to the first event organizer to ask if he would organize a new event but I didn't get a reply, so I thought if I had to attend an event like that I had to try organizing one myself. Then the ball started rolling.

At the start I felt I was already doing enough, "I was organizing these events, it is taking a lot of my time, finding speakers and coordinating, what more can people expect of me?" I felt that if I did more I would look stupid, because I wasn't paid to do it and what more would I get out of it?

Making it viable

I never tried to earn money on doing these events, that could have solved that time part, but I really liked my job as a developer and I am still also afraid of being seen of taking advantage of people, using your audience to earn money. I am not against earning money, but I believe in being transparent so people can take their own decision. I don't like for example feeling like I am being sold to if it is not told beforehand or that I am being sold as a hidden recruitment event. I am all for having a salesevent or a company paying to be a sponsor of something, but it happens more than often and it doesn't take much to be grouped together with all these non-transparent types of people.

I also would not sell myself too cheap, I don't think it is worth it. Imagine a company suggesting that I get 5000 kroners to mention them at a event. I would need a constant stream of those to support myself and at the same time, it would give people the option to think, what is his motivation for doing these things? Because he wants to or because he is getting paid?

And that leads to why I am I doing it? I am doing it to help people like me that likes JavaScript and want to connect with others. Those people I want to consider as my customers, I want to consider their interest! If I take money from companies they would be my customer first suddenly and I would not like that.

That leads me back to the feeling that I was already doing enough. I don't think about that anymore, I focus on doing what I can.

Growing as a community person

With that mindset, I thought about how can I help more and that lead me to start recording videos at the events. That has put me through a lot of learning, trial and errors, it has costed some investment in equipment (camera, mic, etc.). I record videos at events so that speakers can have something of themselves, I know how hard it is to improve yourself and public speaking helps a lot. A video of yourself can be used in a lot of ways, it can be a great reference for a new talk, a conference or maybe even a new job. It is also great to preserve a memory in time for that community, where it was and what was people talking about.

I also began thinking about how to make communities more personal, making it easier for people to connect with each other. Knowing another person name is one of the first steps to connecting closer with another person. I went looking for sticky paper you could write with a toush on, but I began looking into making it even easier with a labelprinter, something, I of course, had to hack on and figure out how to do with JavaScript.

Both the video recording and labelprinter has been much more difficult that I had imagined, taking a lot of time to do. The video has been the most surprising, I thought the difficult thing was to record it, but it is actually only 20%, organising, editing, publishing, preparing is 80%. If I would have had to be paid to do it I would have stopped a long time ago, how would I have justified it. Now I think about how it can help the community making a lasting impact and I learn new skills, something that allows me to grow. I wouldn't have had the opportunity if it wasn't for the community, because who would I have done it for else?

So by allowing myself to use more time on community I have been able to provide more value and in thinking about how to increase the value of the community I have learned how to grow as a person together with the community.

(See those videos I have made, I am quite proud of them, copenhagenjs. I also really think my labelprinter is cool, how to and how I have helped).

(In my next post I will talk about the hypocrisy that all this is easy to say and that I still can not pay my rent while doing this.)

Tags:#community #improvement
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