Roles within community building

Settlers, explorers, town planners

Peter ‘pet3rpan’
Published in
3 min readDec 1, 2020


Community building is the process of bringing a group of people together to achieve a set of collective goals.

It is a practice that requires different aptitudes. Most commonly we can observe three main roles involved in the community building process:

  • The Settlers (operates, focused on steady state growth and maintenance)
  • The Explorers (experiments, focused on growing via leaps and bounds)
  • The Town planners (strategizes, focused on optimizing efforts)

The settlers (community management)

The settlers of a community maintain a community’s core basic functions and is focused on facilitating steady state organic growth.

This role is what most commonly understand as the ‘community manager’.

Settlers are responsible for variety of community operations from running community calls, moderating discord and telegram groups, engaging existing community stakeholders, onboarding new community members, working on documentation to anything that enables either existing community members.

Settlers as the operational backbone of communities.

The explorers (community growth)

In a community, the explorers are the ones focused on experimenting with new opportunities for the community to grow in leaps and bounds.

The work of an explorer is focused on discovering as well as creating new opportunities for the community to grow as opposed to growing the existing community itself. Explorers are the ones working on building up new community distribution channels, content creation, fostering partnerships, relationship building, and conducting customer interviews to analyse greenfield market opportunities.

Explorers are experimenters and drive growth for a community.

The town planners (community strategy)

The town planners of a community are those that drive the strategy behind how a community should grow and where community building efforts are best allocated. A town planner’s role is to understand how to allocate community building efforts and resources to areas of greatest leverage.

20% of your efforts will drive 80% of your results

Crafting strategy is a process of discovery and iteration. It is shaped and formed over time as a community increasingly learns from their experiments and initiatives over time through the settlers and explorers of a community.

General misunderstandings with these roles

  • Settle before exploring. Most projects try to grow fast before they’ve built a community with meaningful participation first. Make sure you take care of the needs and priorities of the current community before growing more aggressively. Without a community that can retain participation, further efforts to bring in new participants will be a wasted effort.
  • Community is a creative process. At the core of community building is relationship building, a process that rarely can be forced — it takes patience, time and different approaches to succeed for both settlers and explorers. Not giving enough creative freedom to experiment is a great way to waste your community team’s time and energy.
  • Town planning requires operational experience. Project founders without community building experience often fail to recognize their inexperience in community building, despite attempting to play the role of Town planner. If either settler or explorer roles on the team are unable to fill the town planner role, try to find advisors or more experienced third parties to assist and help. Town planning requires clarity and coherence.

Community building is a team sport and a community requires different aptitudes to succeed.

This post aims to serve as a mental model to thinking about the different roles required to build and foster a community. Hopefully it can help provide a better framework to thinking about who to hire for community building positions and also what areas to apply efforts and resources.

// This framework was based on the work of Simon Wardley! Thank you.