The Google Campus Guide To Building A Community

Be a ‘Community Catalyst’

What can you create when you bring together doers, dreamers and developers in a sprawling, seven storey space? Down in Shoreditch, there’s a place called Campus London, a seven-story spot for founders to learn, collaborate, grow, and meet new people.

We were lucky enough to have the Head of Campus London — Sarah Drinkwater at one of our recent events — we’ve summarised her 5 tips to community building below, but do take the time to watch the full talk below.

Sarah Drinkwater is at the helm of a venue that had built a cluster of 55,000 members by its fourth birthday last year. As well as mentoring on storytelling and communities, she helped to set up the UK’s first baby-friendly startup school, known as Campus for Mums. Sarah is also on the board of Code First: Girls, which helps young women upskill for tech roles.

Google Campus: Google’s hub for founders and entrepreneurs to connect, learn, and build companies that we hope will change the world.

Campus London is a seven-story space that has been running for four and a half years, and in that time Sarah and the team have learned some valuable lessons on how to build a community.

  1. Galvanise what is already there: There will always be someone fantastic there doing something before you. Google Campus was a pilot so Sarah and the team needed to do research, learn from others already managing communities, and find the lynchpins of their existing community. You have to find out the needs of the community. “This is about being community first, always be listening and be prepared to shift and flex.”
  2. Don’t try to own culture or communities: Be guided by your team and the people in your space (going back to the first point of being humble and listening.) In terms of hierarchy, try to think of things as circles not triangles — any idea coming from anywhere is discussed and debated, the best ideas will generally not just come from you, but from someone in your community. Diverse teams build better companies — Build safe and inclusive communities. Google is working to support working mums, founders of colour, and the LGBT community; you have to work hard to earn the right to be called a safe space. Be mindful of language. “The language in the start up world can be distasteful”, phrases such as ‘hustle’ and ‘crushing your competition’ aren’t always productive.
  3. Keep Delighting: Hold ‘learn and share’ sessions to lean on the expertise of other people and show leadership by delighting members of your community.Simple things like buying someone in your community a birthday cake can go a long way.
  4. Things shift, be flexible and focussed: In 1977, Ken Olsen, the founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation, said, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” — it’s impossible to predict the future. You have to get the balance right between being flexible and focussed. The only people who can tell you the community needs is the community itself, and their needs will always change.
  5. Keep it human: “sometimes it’s easier to think of a tech solution to these problems, sometimes the low-tech (human) solution is best”. Paper and notice boards can work, human connections matter, physical space matters, eye contact is powerful and the best connections you make are often in a coffee queue or next to you at dinner rather than online introductions.

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