The Highlights from This Year’s Community Leadership Summit

Severin Matusek
Oct 31, 2018 · 6 min read

September 7 2018, Copenhagen: the first Community Leadership Summit brought together over 80 founders, community leaders and grassroots organizers to devise how we can better bring people together.

Over the last few years, the word “community” has become so ubiquitous, that pinning it down to just one definition is almost impossible.

From social media, customer support and user engagement to company culture, sharing economy and participatory democracy — building a community around an organization, product or brand can be as diverse as the people that lead them.

It’s this diversity that helped us set the goal of bringing these leaders together for our first Community Leadership Summit in Copenhagen, this September

Together with the experts, hailing from 18 different countries, who run communities in governments, global brands, nonprofits, startups, co-working spaces, innovation labs and creative agencies, we explored how bringing people together creates an impact.

Our key learnings:

  1. Diversity. It’s extremely valuable to learn from people across different industries. We need to break out of silos and collaborate more.
  2. Technology. The tools to connect people are constantly evolving, so does our adoption and behavior. We need to share more resources and best practices.
  3. Community. The people who run communities are often isolated in their roles and responsibilities. A community of community leaders is sorely needed.

Scroll down to see a short recap of the talks, participants and feedback. A big thank you to all of you who joined, participated and contributed with your expertise!

The next Summit will take place in early 2019. RSVP here and we’ll notify you as soon as date and location are set.

The Talks: Stories of Huge Learnings and Epic Fails in Building Communities

A history of epic fails from Slush to Thingtesting
Jenny Gyllander, Founder at Thingtesting, VC at and former CMO of Slush shared about all the things that can go epically wrong when building global communities.

How we’ve built Ladies Get Paid
Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid and this year’s Summit co-host, told the story of how she built a network of 30,000 women and how it almost ended when a group of men-rights activists sued them.

Don’t make it count: why you don’t need 1 million community members
Severin Matusek, host & co-founder at co-matter, talked about why getting a few hundred people to care and participate in your project is worth more than a million followers.

Bringing back the magic of intimate conversations
Travis Hollingsworth, founder of Norn, shared the story how Norn transformed from a co-living network to a community of people bringing back meaningful conversations to our daily lives.

How a community of instant film fans helped make the Impossible, possible
Amy Heaton, Head of Community at Polaroid Originals, about the transition from a hardcore instant film community to a global brand.

How not to organize a community-led organizational change intervention
Laura Billings, community manager at UK’s Government Digital Services Team, about how a country-wide intervention slowly fell apart.

Use your human tone when selling ugly vegetables
Carolin Schiemer, co-founder of GRIM, about her learnings in creating a subscription service for imperfect vegetables.

How to use digital methods to map out clusters and communities online
Jakob Carstensen, anthropologist & co-founder at Backscatter, about the power of data visualization to map and understand people’s behavior.

What is social media activism?
Political cartoonist Khalid Albaih about how his cartoons reached millions during the Arab Spring.


👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Future living labs, co-living organizations, investors and sharing economy startups such as IKEA’s SPACE10, London’s Backed.VC, Copenhagen’s CPH Village, co-living platform LifeX and GRIM, a startup fighting food waste by delivering boxes of ugly, organic & seasonal fruits.

🗳️ Government, city communes and civil society startups such as the community builders behind the UK’s governments website, public servants of the city of Copenhagen or startups like Civocracy that improve the dialog between communities and government authorities.

🚩 Ecosystem organizations such as Estonia’s Lift99, Tallinn Startup Week, Startup Norway and the Oslo Business Region, each on their own a flagship organization behind the Nordic tech community.

🔗 Blockchain platforms such as State of Dapps (Berlin), MakerDAO (Copenhagen), Reebo (Berlin), Zeppelin (Buenos Aires)and CryptoWomenCPH, bringing people together across the blockchain and decentralization movements.

🤓 Creative, design, strategy, data and innovation experts from places such as Stockholms’s ReformAct, London’s Protein, Copenhagen’s Untold, IOVIA and, data visualization company Backscatter and Eskild Hansen Design Studios.

🏠 Co-working spaces such as Oslo’s House of Innovation, Republikken, DINAMO10 and SoCentral, both of them ecosystems on their own supporting and empowering innovators.

💎 The people who bring people together at global brands and startups such as Polaroid Originals, Virgin, Fishbrain, Sanofi, Pixsy, Carlsberg, Conferize, Red Bull and Amnesty International.

🌎 Non-profit and youth organizations such as DeltagerDanmark that works with schools, foundations, municipalities, companies and labor unions to foster a more participatory, democratic and inclusive society, and OpenVRT, an association that empowers Belgium’s young media creatives.


“ It is rare to have an intimate gathering like this, full of ideas from different sectors and countries. I couldn’t believe the diversity — from nonprofits, businesses, governments, and investors — all exploring how groups form and the potential significance behind building them today.”

“In the last 10 years of attending conferences and summits almost monthly, the Community Leadership Summit was certainly one of my favorites. I really appreciate how much time was allocated to workshops and discussions with the other attendees. The diversity of the audience and the active participation of everyone made the day valuable, interesting and inspiring.”

“It was really refreshing to connect with such an international group of people that generally seemed really sharp within their respective areas of work.”

“I thought the diversity of the attendees themselves brought so much value to this event — people from many different backgrounds, nationalities, levels in their career, genders/sexualities, roles, etc, but all united around the same questions.”

“I certainly came away with plenty to think about and with a fresh idea of what community means to me in both a professional and personal sense.”

Are you with us?

The next Summit will take place in early 2019. Make sure to RSVP and we’ll let you know as soon as date and location are fixed.

Last but not least, a big thank you to the team that helped make this Summit become a reality: Emily McDonnell, Natalie Torbett, Fauve Altman, Claire Wasserman, Sebastian Weinmann, the team at Techfestival and all the amazing speakers, participants, organizations and teams that contributed to it.

co — matter

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