January 22, 2019
Community ValidationBy Sam Meister and Alex Chassanoff
Reaching new audiences and assessing growth potential
After a community has formed and coalesced around a central set of ideas, the next step on the path to maturity is to test the community’s validity. In this crucial “validation” stage, communities often need to strike a careful balance between focusing on continued internal development while simultaneously expanding their external networks of support.
The BitCurator Consortium (BCC) is a prime example of a community in its validation stage. Launched in 2014 to provide a foundation for the BitCurator software environment, the BCC is an independent, community-led membership association that supports the ongoing work and practice of digital forensics in collecting institutions. BitCurator is an open source software environment that packages digital forensics tools for managing born-digital content. The BitCurator environment was developed through a collaborative effort between UNC Chapel Hill SILS and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), receiving support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation throughout its initial phases of development and implementation.
The BCC began engaging in community cultivation work with Educopia in 2014 as the Mellon-funded project team began grappling with how to sustain its early momentum. In 2015, the membership organization formally launched and opened to new members. As a key component of this effort, the BCC elected its leadership; established its mission, vision, and values statements; and conducted a market analysis and SWOT analysis. To strengthen its community engagement levels, BCC designed and implemented multiple channels for members, prospective members, and allied organizations to engage in communications, events, and research projects.
With its improved infrastructure, BCC is now working with Educopia’s Communications Manager to create tailored outreach addressing specific user needs as part of a larger campaign that centers on the Winter Membership Special.
The BCC is able to inform this outreach effort with detailed ROI data that can be presented to different groups of prospective members, explicitly addressing how BCC adds value to each group’s digital curation efforts. Using email campaign tools (e.g. MailChimp) and various analytics platforms, BCC is able to efficiently reach a wider audience of potential members and analyze the effectiveness of specific campaigns.
The significant growth of the community’s infrastructure through concrete, well-planned activities during “Validation” positions the BitCurator Consortium beautifully for the next step in its maturation: moving into “Acceleration” in 2019.
And if you’re curious about Educopia’s approach to the formation and evolution of collaborative communities, Community Cultivation: A Field Guide has a wealth of activities, tools, and hard-won lessons for community organizers and leaders.