Where everything starts. The mission of a community

Table of contents

  1. Define the mission of your community
  2. The antagonist. Define who you are not

Define the mission of your community

People create and join communities to solve problems that are very difficult or impossible to solve independently. Whether it’s collecting signatures for a petition or an online chess club. The mission of a community describes a proposed solution of a problem that you invite people to solve together on your platform, leaving the problem itself outside the description.

The mission is a community’s main unique value proposition. It is the main difference between your community and all other communities. It answers the questions “why” does the community exist and “why” people should join it. The community will attract those people who care about the problem being solved and who believe that the solution you are proposing in the mission statement is interesting to them to work on. Note that it’s not so important how many people care about the problem, but up to what degree it bothers those who do care about it. A small community of very passionate people will always outperform a large community of folks who are just somehow interested in the topic.

The mission may be either attainable or unattainable.

  • Communities with an attainable mission have a very specific end criteria. When the mission of such a community gets attained and the original social problem ceases to exist, the community loses its relevance and often ceases to exist along with the problem. They usually are devoted to one-off events. For instance, the community of volunteers who help host the Olympics has an attainable mission.

  • Communities with an unattainable mission are usually focused on changing people’s behavior, attitudes or other processes that without constant coordination of the public effort, risk returning to their original state. For instance, Wikipedia has an unattainable mission, not because amateurs cannot create an encyclopedia, but because for Wikipedia to exist people need to work on it indefinitely.

The mission is the centerpiece of any community and everything else is built around it. Until you have chosen your community’s mission, there is no point in doing anything else.

The antagonist. Define who you are not

When you have just launched a community the uncertainty is high so it is not easy to fully understand the details of the solution you are suggesting to work on. To make the mission less abstract, you can describe your community in terms of what it is definitely not, an antagonist project. If the problem you want to solve is real, there are bound to be specific projects that benefit from the problem. The antagonist will be a project that dominates the reality that you do not like and want to change. Having an antagonist project will make it easier to find people who share your views and are ready to act. In addition, the simplest public success metric of the early stage of a community can be the measure of the community’s progress against the antagonist’s position.