The Power Sharing Problem

February 29, 2012Comments Off

The more power you share with the community, the most active members will be. 

Yes, you have less control. But you trade control for participation.

The mentality changes. You’re not building a community for members. You’re building a community with members. It’s hard to do that when you’re exercising rigid top-down control. Worse yet, you prevent volunteers from helping you. You can’t scale a community without passionate volunteers.

But much power are you willing to give?

This isn’t solely about hard power (admin access), but soft power too. 

Here are a few power sharing options. 

  • Admin power. Will you give some members the power to make changes to the platform? 
  • Content contributions. Will you let members create content that features prominently on the site? Will you give members weekly columns/featured blogs (and by doing so gain more prestige for members, but more contributions for you?)
  • Recruitment.Will you give members responsibility for recruiting newcomers? Helping them settle in? Will you let members reach out to bloggers to write about the community?
  • Governance, Opinions And Ideas. Are you willing to let members have responsibility for governing the direction of the community. Will they be able to set the agenda? Decide what content they want? Come up with opinions and ideas that might change the community? What if members want to create a crowdsourced community logo, for example? Or host their own events?
  • Moderation. Will you let members manage discussions? Can they remove/approve posts? Create sticky threads? Edit comments? Resolve disputes?
  • Power to change products/services.Will you let community members agree on what needs to be changed about your products or your organization? Will you give them access to the people that can change it?
  • Role creation. Will you create roles for your members? Will you give people responsibility for areas of the site or topics that are of most interest to them?

Most organizations are far too nervous about sharing any of these powers with their community. They ignore that most thriving communities founded by amateurs are doing extremely well. They worry about what might happen. 

Yet the ‘trusted member going rogue‘ is a rare occurence and an easy fix. By comparison, the community which doesn’t succeed because it refuses to share any power with members is extremely common. 

Some things are worth pushing for. Giving members more powers is one of those things. 

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