Welcome to the fifth edition of Global Perspectives featuring Elenice Tamashiro.

Elenice TamashiroBased in São Paulo, Brazil, Elenice Tamashiro has worked in the social entrepreneurship and innovation fields over the last 13 years. A Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduate, she is currently working as a consultant for international businesses, organizations, and foundations focusing on technology and innovation initiatives. Follow her at @elenicett_cm.

Six years ago, I embarked on a new journey named the online global community. Everything I knew when I said, “yes, I accept the challenge”, was something related to technology that could boost the roles of individuals, foundations and businesses as social change agents. It could not have been more compelling for me . . . help build an online community to engage innovators around the globe to tackle the world’s most pressing social issues.

There are four foundational components that are essential to build an online community: purpose, people, content, and structure.

Purpose: The organization must have a purpose as well as clear internal goals – what does the organization want to achieve with the established purpose? It has to resonate with people, nurture their sense of belonging, and touch their heart! Without a purpose, it will be hard to reach out to the constituency that matters to the organization.

People: Who are you primary targets? Do you want to increase the audience or community members? Other than common interests, community members are enthusiastic about offering contributions, exchanging ideas and experiences. People are the driving force of a community and empowering them will inspire others, multiplying their actions to an expanded group of people both online and offline. The important point is to identify and attract the group of people who are most important to you.

Content: Community members-focused content – either inspirational or calls to action – usually reverberate better to the constituency while also strengthening your organization/company brand. Consistent and continuous content fosters community members’ engagement and accelerates change on the ground.

Structure: The technological structure must be as friendly as possible. Reducing “pain points” for the user is crucial to an online community. Do not be afraid of making mistakes but listening to the users (community members) and addressing glitches in a fast manner will ensure a good online experience and an enjoyable journey to them.

Certainly there are many other elements to take into account but the lack of any of the above four will prevent the online community from pursuing its goals.

Despite named as global, the majority of online communities have language constraints. It is just fine if the platform features one language. But the decision of taking the initiative to other geographies must be as planned as possible. Becoming multilingual unfolds into a myriad of concurrent and customized processes, strategies and tactics. The purpose, rules and technological structure can be one but the initiative expansion cannot be a mere replication of the original language setting. Therefore, giving a regional flair to an online global community requires redoubled energy.

Here are my lessons learned from developing multilingual platforms:

Be empathetic to local context: Be humble, listen to locals, and adapt the strategy and tactics as much as possible. Leveraging other geographies’ participation in an online community is not an easy task. Getting the buy-in from the local constituency is a good start to create a solid initiative for the long run.

Pay attention to content customization: It goes way beyond translation. Each region requires special attention to content and terminologies. Hard content (e.g. institutional texts) can be adapted but local content development is key.

Understand the local community members’ needs: Do not think about babysitting or micromanaging! This means stepping back. Just make sure you can provide an enjoyable experience to your constituency so all of them can walk on their on feet.

Keep the plates spinning: Once you decide to embrace new locations and languages, you cannot run away from matrix management. Additional human resource capacity may be added to handle all demands yielded by localization. Never underestimate the volume of work because it is an online thing and always remember to keep your sense of humor in difficult times, be witty ☺.

Lastly, here are a couple of inspiring examples of online community building: love.fútbol (football for social change online and offline community) and patagonia (check out their customer-focused content, it attracts the group of people they want without mentioning the brand).

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