Consider adding community health; the yin to the yang of community growth
How do you measure your health?
If you are under 18, things like height and weight are important benchmarks in comparison to some societal norm. What about mental health? Physical health? That overall feeling of underlying joy or systemic stress? These are all things that don’t show up with a ruler or scale but we know are important to be a whole, thriving person.
Photo by Theme Inn on Unsplash
Tools for measuring self health are getting smarter. A friend recently gave me a home pee stick to try weekly, looking at things like cortisol and Vitamin C. There are devices and apps to track movement, sleep, food consumption, and more. While helpful, they are simply data points. Small pieces of a bigger picture of your health and wellbeing, which is something that you simply just know and feel in your heart and gut. It’s hard to quantify (and sometimes pointless trying) the things that you feel—the yin to your yang.
Communities are alive with two halves creating one whole
Communities, like humans, are things that live and breathe. They are never stagnant—always in a state of growth or decline. To be honest, this is much like my tumor, and all living organisms for that matter.
For communities, our tools are even more rudimentary than for ourselves. Without the language, tools, and systems to look at the whole picture, we default to known entities around external growth, for example: new newsletter subscribers, Twitter followers, developers and increasing asset prices.
(Note: While not yet widely adopted in crypto, the Orbit Model gets us part of the way there in that it unpacks some of the ways to understand and quantify community growth in novel and new ways.)
External numbers are the benchmark for the Web3 world—they are also the benchmark for the stock market and a country’s economy (GDP). People who hold and buy crypto assets want to be able to quickly assess the winners from the losers. See which projects will likely fly “to the moon” and which will fall.
My yoga teacher once said, “you have to teach people how to treat you.” I believe that for crypto, there is an education gap in how we measure and assess a project’s viability, and thus its worthiness of our investment in terms of resources like time and financial capital.
Is there a way we can find space in our awareness for both community health and community growth?
There is a lot we can learn from the self that we can apply to communities. I want to offer a framework that may begin to unpack how we look at community health, and thus measure the other half of a project’s worthiness.
The concept of Yin and Yang
Yin and yang can be described as “the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature” (source). It presents us with a reality in which complementary and interdependent forces live together in harmony.
Applied here, Yin is life inside the community. The growth in things like social connections, play, mutual trust, and organic contributions, with which a health community can thrive and are hard to quantify. Yang is the counterpart that shows the results of a thriving, “sticky” community and can be shown in tracking things like marketing metrics.
Keeping an eye on both community health and community growth will lead to sustainable, thriving projects.
The Wheel of Life as a tool for measuring community health
The Wheel of Life is a tool from coaching and looks at the satisfaction one has with their own life. This reflection tool takes into account key verticals, which may be defined by the participant, that are important for a well-balanced and fulfilled life.
I’ve adapted The Wheel of Life for community. On the first pass, I tried to tie metrics to each of these—to force some yang. However upon reflection, I recognized we need to honor it for what it is—a tool, a feeling, a ritual (and sometimes a metric) that community teams and organizers could use to decide where to place their focus and find alignment.
How to use the tool
Instead of being overly prescriptive about how to measure each of these, I suggest filling it out in under 10 minutes, perhaps before each sprint or planning cycle. Rate each slide from 1 (low) to 10 (high) and then step back and look at what is out of balance; what needs tending to. Most community leaders will have a pulse on what’s happening and this tool could be a way to align priority and focus to community needs. Perhaps examples and stories from the community could contextualize this and bring it to life.
If you’re on the outside of a project, you could make your own assessment based on your interactions with the project and its participants.
On the Wheel of Community, possible verticals could include:
Fulfillment of a shared purpose. For Celo, work and projects that align to the Theory of Change and mission of prosperity for all.
Organic contributions. The virality, people referring others to the project or generating content without an explicit intent to “shill”. People building on Celo as self-starters (building something without initial funding). Github commits from independent developers.
Ecosystem maturity. Projects spinning out of other projects. Continued development in current projects.
Sense of ownership. Community members participate as owners of the community, including receiving member benefits and being able to meaningfully influence the project’s direction. Solutions built by people for the communities they are a part of (versus, for example, the Global North building for the Global South).
Diversity. Community member variety in terms of identities, backgrounds, geographies that make for a resilient community.
Self-regulation. Owners of CELO not only voting in governance proposals but participating in the discussions leading up to the vote. Information transparency is a precursor to this. Community enforces shared norms and values and weeds out toxic energy.
Play & civility. “Play as exploration without expectations”, Amy Jung :). Laughter, friendly jokes, memes. New creative use cases being developed on Celo. The sense of psychological safety, respectful disagreement, lack of trolls.
Social connections. New members making connections, working together, and helping each other. Organic social events and new rituals. Community members helping one another in public / private forums.
Asset velocity. Celo Dollars and Celo Euros being spent, shared; the movement of money.
Asset distribution. Distribution of the CELO native asset across individuals and geographies.
How would you assess the health of your community?
I hope this framework and concepts provide a new, more holistic way to think about your community-building efforts. I believe if we hold both community health and community growth, we can fulfill the promise of crypto and Web3 and build projects that will both survive and thrive for many generations to come.
Make a copy of the Wheel of Community and give it a spin 🎡.
Thank you to Simona Pop, Amy Jung, Elena Giralt, and Lindsay Howard who helped shape my thinking around these concepts through delightful conversations. And to Medha Kothari, Amy Jung, Nima Ashgari, Gabrielle Micheletti, Elena Giralt, Kristian Simsarian, Claire Belmont, Adriana Cerundolo, and Amy Slawson for giving feedback along the way.