You’ve got a group of geographically dispersed folks who won’t be in the same place anytime soon. You understand that building trust is the foundation of building an action-oriented community, but how in the world do you do that? Here are some tried and true strategies to get you started.
- Tell them who’s in the (figurative) room – think about your own level of vulnerability and willingness to trust people if you have no idea who’s there. Create member lists with everyone’s contact information and make those available to all of the group’s participants.
- Introduce people to one another with intentionality. Tell them what they have in common or where their potential synergy can be found. In network talk, we call this “closing the triangles.”
- Welcome the new folks generously. Tell everyone when someone new joins, help everyone learn something the new member has to offer, what they’re looking to get from the group, and how to reach out to them. Invite them for a quick chat. If you ask everyone the same (interesting) question during your conversation, you can document their responses and share them with the whole group.
- Create opportunities for participants to meet one another, while focusing on what’s important to them. You provide the logistical support and scaffolding (i.e., events, book clubs, dilemmas of practice groups, working groups, peer-to-peer mentoring, lunch -n- learns, etc). Then make sure they have one another’s contact information for follow up.
- Explain what the space is there for and how to use it. When people understand and trust the boundaries, they’re more likely to engage with comfort.
When people understand and trust the boundaries, they’re more likely to engage with comfort.
- Be a trustworthy facilitator. Follow through, respond to emails quickly, process applications quickly, help people find answers to their questions, etc.
- Make sure that someone engages with every participant in your network every time they participate. Maybe that’s you. Maybe it’s an appointed “host” who is sure to always recognize when people join the conversation.
- Model taking risks and making mistakes
- Say thanks early and often
- Listen very carefully and show that you’re listening very carefully by acting on what you’ve heard.
The secret trick when you get stuck on this … Imagine that everyone in your network is standing in a room together. What would you do to build trust there and how can you adapt those ideas to a community that’s geographically diverse?
Got more ideas? Share them in the comments!
Feel free to reach out to Debra Shaffer Seeman, Prizmah’s Network Weaver at firstname.lastname@example.org