The Fragility Of New Forums

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Without a doubt, the most challenging stage of any forum is the first four months. This is especially true for groups that are brand new and nobody knows each other.

The issues these new groups face go beyond the logistical challenges of scheduling meetings and understanding the guidelines. 

These groups don’t have any social capital built up between the members. Social capital is essentially the currency that keeps the community going. It’s a way to quantify the level of connection between members. The more social capital a group has, the deeper the members’ commitment to each other. 

To build up social capital, however, it is usually not a light switch moment but rather a series of events spread over a period of time. In this case, for new groups, it takes about four months for them to build up enough social capital to be able to be committed to each other on a deeper level.

So, how do you build up the social capital?

Here are four ways new groups can build social capital between the members.

  1. Show up to the meetings –  I know this sounds strange, but in the early stages of a group, people are more relaxed about whether they should show up. Just physically being with each other during the meeting goes a long way to building deeper connections.
  2. Go to dinner together – Again, in the early stages of a group forming, it is common for people not to attend the dinners and prioritize other things over the group. But dinners are critical for the informal conversations where deeper conversations naturally unfold.
  3. Facilitate “get-to-know-you“ activities –  While this sounds simple, it is difficult because forum meetings have a jam packed agenda. To fit in an additional activity requires a reduced current section or time added to the meeting.
  4. Keep the conversation going between the meetings – Too often with new groups, the dialogue is good during the session, but the conversation drops off a cliff as soon as the meeting ends. To keep the conversation going, you can encourage members to meet between meetings. You can set up a group chat. And/Or you could create goals (AIMS) partners to support each other between the meetings.

As I mentioned above, the first four months of a new forum can be the most challenging, as they need more social capital for deeper connections and commitment among members. However, building up social capital is achievable through several key strategies. First, consistent attendance at meetings fosters stronger relationships. Additionally, participating in post-meeting dinners provides an opportunity for more natural and meaningful conversations. Facilitating “get-to-know-you” activities during forum meetings encourages bonding. Furthermore, keeping the connections alive between Squads through in-person interactions, group chats, and goal partners helps sustain the community’s growth. By implementing these approaches, new groups can gradually cultivate the social capital needed to develop a solid and committed group.