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Community building: tips and best practices

fare comunità

After the meeting I organized in Florence with the community of Expatclic, I realised that I have accumulated a huge experience in community building.

I practice Linguistic Empathy and I expect you to do the same. Please bear with me if my English is not perfect. Read the Italian version here.

It has often  happened  to me in the past. I suddenly feel struck by a realization. After the Expatclic meeting in Florence, it became  crystal clear to me that I am now an expert in community building. Or whatever you want to call the fact of being the “leader” (though  I  prefer the term  “organizer”) of a vast  group of people who feel connected by something they all have in common.

In our  case  this  “something” is the  fact of having or having had some solid experience in living in different cultures.  But there is much more behind any community than the simple reason why they get and stay together.

Nowadays there are plenty of communities of all kinds.  To remain in my field, there are countless groups of expats that flourish everywhere and in many forms. Social media have given the possibility to reach out easily to any kind of people and to build group communication quickly and efficiently.

How long, however, do these groups last? And what is the quality of the relationships among their members? And again, how deeply engaged and grateful do members feel? All of these factors (there are more, of course) are indicators of the success of a community, and of what is commonly called community building.

At the meeting in Florence, I have had a wonderful feedback from many of the women attending. Most of them were new  to the group, and gave me a  fresh insight on what they have felt discovering the community and coming to the meeting.

It was through that that I realized I have accumulated an incredible wealth of knowledge about community building. Most of the things I did and implemented in these 16 years since I created  Expatclic, came spontaneously. I take stock now, when, after all these years, I still hear women telling me how grateful and admired they are, and how welcome and at ease they feel on every occasion when the spirit of the community expresses itself.


Photo ©RajanAdhikari

I want to share some of these practices, and a couple of points of reflections on community building:

Create a community around something you are a real expert in

You cannot  invite people around a theme you are not strong about. Creating a community means, first of all, understanding the innermost feelings and reasons of those who’ll join. Like in any life situation, having directly experienced what you talk about, makes it easy to empathize, understand opinions, place events and feel the flow of the group.

Create a community around something you are passionate about

Creating something  just for prestige or money won’t take you very far. The simple reason being that passion ignites enthusiasm, which is one of the basic ingredients to make a community work. The members of your group will  immediately feel it, when you are moved by passion, and  will react accordingly. This does  not mean that you cannot create a community linked to your business, provided you are really passionate about what you do. Ideally, your work should come first, and the creation of the community should be a result of it.

Community building is not done in one day

There are groups  that  grow dramatically and impressively. I am always skeptical when I see this happening. Groups need to have time, a lot of time, to function. They have to build their identity, test their relationships, integrate members sweetly and smoothly. Concentrating on the numbers before having nurtured the soul of the community can lead to no results. I have seen groups catering for thousands of people in  a matter of days, who punctually started quarreling or blabbering among them.

While time flows, roll up your sleeves

You cannot just sit  down and expect your community to build up on its own. You need to be present. There are a myriad ways you can stimulate community building, but they all need you to be at the forefront. It is a huge engagement, both in terms of time and energy, but it pays back.

Be honest, generous and present

People will feel if you are not  acting out of honesty. Genuineness in your words and ways is guarantee of honest reactions in your group. Being generous can  be hard because it means you’ll have to use a lot of your time to address the needs of the community. But I can assure you that the more  generous you are, the more generous people will gravitate around you and give your community a distinctive human quality. In order to do all this you must be present. You have to set aside a big portion of your time for the community. You have to listen, answer, use all of your knowledge and contacts to help the members of your group. And you must do it with consistency.

Photo @AlessandraFerrario
Foto ©AlessandraFerrario

Build your community but check out the single member

This is not easy, of course, especially if the community is big. It is, however, very important to try and get to know at least a bit those members who show an active participation. This will allow you to juggle between comments addressed to the community and to the single member. Remember that the community is a compact cultural group. As any cultural group, it hosts many differences. These differences must be identified, valued and highlighted.

The community does not turn around you

You can be the inspiration, the leader, the conductor, but you are first and foremost an instrument at the service of your community. In other words, the community does not turn around you. You are the one who must constantly turn around it. You should observe it from every angle, feel its pulse, and move within the single reactions, the participation and all the results you get.

Building and nurturing the Expatclic community all these years hasn’t just been a great journey, from which I have drawn profound lessons. It has been, mostly and foremost, an incredible and deep human experience, the greatest achievement of my life (after my children 🙂 ). It has also been a privileged channel to express the values that have been defining me since I was very young: human interactions, support and contact with diversity.


Claudia Landini
October 2020

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