Community Development Essentials

8 Months into a high growth startup called Andela and I’m loving every bit of it. I have learnt a lot about the African tech space and community development in that space. I have seen so many communities spring up and this sparked up the question;

What exactly is a community and how are they developed?

Communities are networks with shared ideals or demographics, people concentrate on building valuable relationships rather than using each other. Communities are inherently different from networking organizations. Some examples of African tech communities include @forloopNigeria, Laravel Nigeria, @angularnigeria, @HashiCorp , ForLoopNairobi, PythonNigeria, GDG, Women In Tech Makers, Nextech, Innovate for Her Africa, Girls for Girls, WITU (Women in Tech Uganda), UXLagos == usable.etc.

What is community development?

Community development is the capacity for people to work collectively in addressing common interests. It requires bringing people together to influence change, generate solutions or achieve outcomes that improve the quality of life for those within the community.

Who are the community members?

People that we bring together based on their interests, service needs and networks. They might be members of formal and informal networks.

What are the roles in the community?

  1. Organisers: They build, engage and facilitate.
  • Build: Setting the groundwork, learning what the focus of the community is all about and designing programs to serve that niche
  • Engage: Getting community buy in and maintaining constant communication and info flow to ensure that the community members find value
  • Facilitate: Management of the logistics involved in various community activities i.e getting venues, swag, infrastructural support and community/event theme etc

A few organisers you might know; Prosper Otemuyiwa, Osioke Itseuwa Christian Nwamba, nemi, Neo Ighodaro, Chidiebube Amos, James Ndiga, Anthony Nandaa, Edem Kumodzi Phatye etc.

Orjiewuru Kingdom Isaac at @forloopKaduna speaking on GraphQL

2. Facilitators: They are responsible for integrating, facilitating and educating.

  • Integrate: Ensuring that there is quality of content for facilitation which allows members to constantly build and engage with new technologies.
  • Facilitate: They ensure the quality of delivery of concepts/theme/technology is easy, clear and concise. They have the ability to engage the community and are thought leaders in their fields. they also ensure continuous learning and evaluation of community members by ensuring community members own and drive their own learnings.

Lawrence Enehizena, Chris Ganga, Orjiewuru Kingdom Isaac, Timi Ajiboye, Ire Aderinokun, Quincy Larson are examples of facilitators.

3. Evangelist: Motivate, Integrate, Empower

  • Motivate: Get the community to rally behind certain concepts, themes and events by articulately passing on the right information.
  • Integrate: Understand the community needs and build relationships that lead to ease of executing ideas and concepts.
  • Empower: Building confidence in the community members, through pointing them to the right resources, information, creating excitement about new technologies and concepts. Enabling community members to believe in owning their learning and being accountable.
  • Activate: Encourage new members to join the community through active recruitment or outreach programs.

And we know many of these awesome evangelist; Prosper Otemuyiwa, Rotimi Okungbaye, Babajide Duroshola, Christian Nwamba, Mercy Orangi, Aniedi Udo-Obong etc.

It’s important to note that an individual can play all 3 roles in the community depending on his/her capacity and willingness to do so.

So now that your community has those, its time to get some influencers. These are entities that help (sponsor, support, partner etc.) your communities and they include the following:

Tech hubs: These are spaces where community members meet, learn, work and collaborate. There are also numerous events, info sessions and meet ups that are held in such spaces. You can leverage their own community initiatives that tap into the developers and tech leaders ecosystems. Such are Co-Creation Hub, Project Outbox, Innovation Hub, enspire, iHub, LakeHub, colab, Wennovation Hub, colab etc.

Andela Talent Lagos team behind community development

Corporates: Communities usually require sponsorship (cash, material or human resources) and the best way to get this is to partner with corporates. After all, most of the employees in these companies are the community organisers, facilitators and evangelist so they can help pull strings and paint the value add to the organisations. Andela, Hotels.ng, Scotch Development, Google Developers, Switchng, have all been very instrumental in growing different communities.

So, hope this was helpful for most people who intend to start communities and those who already have and intend to grow their communities. MASSIVE shout out to James Ndiga and Evan Green-Lowe for working on this with me.