[Podcast] Defining “Community Health” | CHAOSSCast

We strongly believe that creating communities for purposes of owning a conversation does not lead to a healthy community – but what exactly does?

SociallyConstructed.Online has joined in with the CHAOSS project because we feel that answering this question requires that we be a part of, and always seek to improve existing communities. To do this we’ve gotten involved in the CHAOSScast open source community podcast and we’ll regularly be cross-posting episodes in the CHAOSS community here for you to listen to.

If you’d like to see them all, head over to CHAOSS.community or to your favorite podcast app! 

In this episode, we’re going to discuss one of the most important things you can answer early on in your Community – What does Community health mean to you?

What does Open Source Community Health Mean?

Community Health refers to the overall well-being of community members, but that’s not a helpful way to define it for the stakeholders responsible for creating a healthy community. It’s more important to ask, “What environmental factors, policies, and actions foster healthy community, and how can we measure success, so that community members would generally agree we are healthy?” Being able to define such an abstract and nebulous concept is exactly why this podcast is integral to sussing out The CHAOSS project’s mission. Our job at CHAOSS and SC.O is to provide frameworks, tools, and strategies for defining what it means for a community or open source project to be healthy.

And for virtually all of our clients at SociallyConstructed.Online, It’s an unexpectedly hard question to answer. 

How do we at SociallyConstructed.Online define it?

We believe that your presence as a stakeholder or orgaization in a community should not hinder or worse, harm, the health and well being of the community that you create, participate in, or markte to, but you cannot be responsible for overall health – merely the actions you make to foster it.

For us, that means you need to handle this question in 2 ways.

What are you responsible for?

As an organization or stakeholder you are limited in what you can do for community health. You can do 2 things: set the precedent for something, and build momentum for that thing. So, what precedents are you setting for a healthy community? Do these objectives work toward a coehsive, well-meaning, goal that people believe in enough to share it? And how are you building momentum necessary for that precedent? Are you doing so without harming the community? ARe you doing so profitably or putting the security of the community at risk? Are you asking too muc of members or are you getting crickets?

How is the community fostering their own health?

Conversely, there are aspects of your community you cannot control and should not be responsible for measuring. This is the greater community culture and you can learn what you don’t know through two main ways – measuring community behavior through quantitative methods, and listening to user sentiment through social queues and qualitative research. These methods build to give you a cogniscent understanding of the Community’s “culture” but you must be very careful to use both methods in equal part or you may fall victim to personal confirmation bias and that will lead to a community that feels it is not being listened to.

Knowing that these 2 methods of defining community health put the onus sqruarely on the stakeholders responsible for measuring it, we have created the Social Currency Metrics System (the SCMS) to enhance qualitative social listening methods and connect them with the actions and behaviors of your community leaders. How is your community responding to the precedent and momentum actions? Are they working and is the community responding well to them?

The CHAOSS project provides several ways of measuring your community in a broad-spectrum mix-and-match toolkit, by harnessing the power of community working groups to produce a series of well conceived, written, and implemented metrics you can look through here.  Applying some of these metrics to your community may shine a light on what your community is doing well, where it could improve, and what your next step will be to foster community growth.

How are you measuring Community Health?
Do you report it publically to users like Mautic does?

Read more about How Ruth Cheesley at Mautic publishes her community reports!

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Venia Logan

I’ve spent the past 9 years learning the diverse skills necessary to create strong stable online communities that put your brand’s services at their center. ​​I started my own YouTube channel in 2010, and RESCQU.NET in 2013. I worked for Constant Contact, and returned to college for a specialization in online community management. Then I attained all 12 certifications from DigitalMarketer and helped dozens of communities. Spend fewer resources advertising to cold contacts or buying paid media and get back to focusing on what you love by growing a community that is financially and socially rewarding for you.