From the Sandbox: Curated Membership Communities: The Most Important Market Segment You’ve Never Heard Of. By Nathaniel WhittemoreFebruary 25th, 2011 by Nathalie de Meyeres
Every day, our community manager, Nathalie de Meyeres, reads through her feed of all Sandboxers’ blog posts. Every week, she chooses the most inspiring, funny or brilliant ones and reposts them on this blog. This post was written by Sandboxer Nathaniel Whittemore for Assetmap – find the original post here. Follow Nathaniel on Twitter.
Saturday, April 17, I found out that I would be stuck in London for at least a week because of the Icelandic volcano. At 11:49, I emailed TED staffers to propose a flash event we would hold the next day as a way for volcano refugees to celebrate our powerlessness. Less than an hour later they sent their excited response and by 6:00pm the next day, the curtains opened on TEDxVolcano, the world’s first popup conference.
It’s a story that would have been impossible just a few years earlier, but not for the reason you think. It was not so much the power of internet technology that made this happen, but the power of a type of “curated membership community” that, while not new, has become an increasingly central to the fabric of modern professional life. These curated membership communities are poised to become one of the most important drivers of social and economic value in the coming decades, and entrepreneurs should take note.
What are Curated Membership Communities?
Curated membership communities are networks like conference communities, fellowships, coworking spaces, professional networking groups, and meetup groups. There are a few things that makes them different from businesses or nonprofits.
- Members as beneficiaries, not employees: They are designed primarily for the benefit of their members, rather than to leverage their members to achieve a specific ends as a business would with employees. Their “outcomes” are about amplifying the variety of outcomes individual members seek to achieve.
- Significant focus on social capital: The benefits of participation tend to come in the form of the members sharing their extended network of skills, connections, and other resources with one another. In other words, it is other members more than the organizer or curator who provide value to each other.
- Highly aspirational: People tend to engage in these groups because they’re excited to feel like they have a connection with other people they admire and look up to. Aspiration is one of the main forces that drives social capital exchange.
- Ethos over tasks: Membership tends to be organized around an ethos rather than a set of specific commitments. You get to participate because you have share a set of beliefs that animates the group as a whole.
- Curators not managers: The activities and interaction of the community are curated by some actor or set of actors. These actors range from formal organizations (in the case of conferences and fellowships) to individuals volunteering their time, as in the case of mixers and meetups. In all cases, organization of members is much lighter touch than the management hierarchy of a company.
- Collaboration between curators and members: These curators who facilitate the activities of the group tend to have a highly collaborative relationships with the members. In many cases, these communities act like “platforms,” which give their members access to a brand, context, and resources to create opportunities for the group.
- Multi-faceted purpose: Unlike companies, which are organized in a hierarchical fashion in order to do a small number of things in a highly repeatable and scalable way, these communities are highly dynamic and can be reorganized to accomplish a variety of goals.
What are some examples of Curated Membership Communities?
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