Community builders: Getting started

When starting a meeting, event, or new cohort, it is natural to want to get participants warmed up with a community builder activity. With so many community building ideas out there, how do you go about choosing the right one?! When I am faced with this task, I start by asking myself a few questions first.

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What do I want to result from this community builder?
  3. Do the participants already know something about each other?
  4. Am I looking to spark a conversation or complete an activity?

I then let the answers to these questions guide my selection process. If I have a brand new group of participants who do not know each other, I might start with general and fun conversation starters. Ask questions about dream jobs, dream vacations, favorite sports teams, music, art, culture—lighthearted questions that will give the participants an opportunity to find similarities with each other and begin building relationships.

Sometimes I want my community builders to have a symbolic meaning. For example, I once had a group plant seeds and decorate the pots any way they chose, but they had to write, “I Plant the seed of…” and list whatever skill or characteristic they wanted to work on. Some popular choices were love, perseverance, patience, determination, and kindness.

You also want to consider the ability of everyone to participate in community builders. For example, if you chose to have conversation starters which are typed, printed, and left on the table, be sure to provide copies in however many languages are represented in your target audience. If you’re planning an activity that is outside, consider your participants and how comfortable they will be completing certain activities. Think about the weather and physical exertion of each participant.

While preplanning might not allow you to predict every outcome of your community builder, participants will enjoy the thoughtfulness you put into creating comfortable environments and situations that allow them to get to know each other in a safe and positive space.

Happy building!

This blog post was written by NCFL Family Learning Specialist Kristen Whitaker.