Learnings and reflections following three months of helping to shape Agencies for Good.
Hi friend, my name is Shanice and I have been working as Agencies for Good (AfG)’s Community Manager for the past three months. AfG is a Slack-based community, launched in June 2021 and open to any Tech for Good agencies, consultancies and freelancers who want to support each other in doing socially impactful work. The community is managed by a Working Group comprised of myself; Ellie Hale, Catalyst Producer; James Gadsby Peet, Director of Digital at William Joseph; Gemma Hampson, Managing Director of Hactar; Molly Gavriel, Partnerships Manager at The Developer Society and Noam Sohachevsky, Founder, Designer and No-Coder at SIDE Labs.
I was attracted to this role because I’m very passionate about inclusion and really wanted to make this community the best it could be. I have been trying to build connections between community members (the AfG team included) in multiple different ways, including running an event, launching Question of the Week, setting up bimonthly paired conversations and reaching out to individual community members. Some of these methods have seen more success than others but all of them have provided the AfG Working Group with valuable learnings. These findings will be used to understand where we are now and where we could go in the future. So let’s dive in…
I collaborated with James Gadsby Peet from William Joseph Design to put together an event on growth and values. We had three speakers: James Gadsby Peet, Molly Gavriel from The Developer Society and Louise Cooper from Shift: each of them delivered a 3-5 minute presentation and we then moved on to questions, first from me (the chair) and then from the audience. To say it was our first event, I was really happy with how smoothly it went, we had no major issues and were able to keep our audience engaged.
However, there were some structural issues that could be worked on for next time. I think we dedicated too much time to the opening presentations, this not only meant that we had very little time to take questions from the audience but also made my job of asking follow-up questions quite challenging. As another member of the audience said, it might have been more useful ‘to have heard more questions from others in the group and also heard from other agency owners about how they approach and balance values, culture and growth.’ This feedback should be explored to determine whether AfG members want to learn from agencies of various approaches and sizes.
If you’re intrigued and would like to catch up on the event, please follow this link.
Question of the Week
I wanted to create a straightforward way for people to engage with the community and get to know other members. I decided it would be a good idea to alternate between tech-related and general questions so that we could gain insight into who everybody is both inside and outside of work.
I originally thought that I would see the most success with the general questions (and sometimes I did - see below) because I always made them close-ended and super simple, I would also ask that people respond with an emoji. However, it was usually the tech-related ones that gained more traction. For example, I recently asked what agencies can do to be more climate friendly and received over 20 thoughtful responses.
This suggests that our members prefer to discuss topics related to their work within this space, they’re interested in learning more about what other agencies are doing and working on. It therefore seems appropriate to prioritise tech-related questions over general ones going forward.
I thought that establishing a way for members to have one-on-one meetings with each other would be really helpful in encouraging them to put themselves out there. We are interested in exploring this idea within the context of both general conversations and mentoring. When I put it to the group, they decided that they would find general conversations the most useful to prioritise. We had quite a good response with 14 people opting to take part in the first round, a number that will hopefully grow with time.
After speaking to various participants following their meetings, I can conclude that the first iteration of the project was a resounding success. They enjoyed connecting with someone new in the space, and often took away new insight or resources from the conversations. Many expressed that they would like to take part in the next round of pairings and felt that it had been really well-organised.
It was also great to hear that the prompts I sent out beforehand often went unused as they already had plenty to talk about without them. However, I will continue to provide all participants with them as I think it’s reassuring to have a backup plan. I very much look forward to running this project again and seeing the partner- and (hopefully) friendships that grow from it.
Every week I reach out to various members of the AfG community to introduce myself as the Community Manager and let them know that I’m here to make their time with us as enjoyable and welcoming as possible. I have so far tried two different techniques, the first being sending a line that requires zero engagement and simply lets the recipient know that I’m there if they need me, the second involves asking them questions such as why they joined the space and what they’re working on at the moment so that I can reflect on ways to support them.
The initiative hasn’t been as successful as I had hoped, with many not responding to my message, but I think this may be in part due to the fact that many people take time off during August. I’m wondering if I will see a little bit more success throughout September. If not, maybe we need to reconsider how we help people feel welcome and learn a bit about them and their needs, so we can make more useful connections for them. Perhaps it would be more effective to have some form of drop-in system where community members can come to voice their feedback and needs on a regular basis.
That being said, those who did respond often confirmed what we already knew and were trying to implement in the space. There was also a lot of consistency in terms of what people want from the space, which is very often connecting with other agencies through mentoring and/or networking events. This is great news as it means that we’re on the right track and will hopefully be in a place where all members feel fulfilled and included very soon.
Based on what I’ve learnt over the past couple of months, I would say that it’s important for communities such as Agencies for Good to have someone who is responsible for managing their space. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Community Manager, particularly for smaller communities where there’s not always enough work for them to do. However, this work should never be neglected; it plays a vital role in enabling you to grow the community you always envisioned. You should therefore strive to make time for it, in a way that makes sense for you and your network.
Want to know more about how we got here? Check out this wonderful blog post from our very own Ellie Hale that explores, amongst other things, how Agencies for Good came to be.
That’s all for this time. We intend to make these Community Manager Notes a regular event, so do stay tuned for the next update!