Five Ways Community Initiatives Can Build Engagement

World over, communities with common interests, commitments, and beliefs are striving to do more to advance their cause to deliver better, quicker, and more impactful outcomes. 

Whether propelled by a commitment to improving sustainability, health, fitness, or simply better access to safer travel arrangements for women, diverse communities have been coming to the fore to help women fulfil specific needs.

As an innovation intermediary and business incubator, we at T-Hub are partnering with Facebook on its flagship Community Accelerator Program. The initiative that aims at providing mentorship and financial support to impactful community initiatives plays a powerful role in enabling organizations with great ideas to expand their reach and grow.

Let’s consider five ways in which three organisations that are a part of Facebook’s eight-month-long Community Accelerator Program for 2022[1] [2]  have helped grow engagement among members and expand impact. 

Defining purpose

The first step is to define the purpose of the organisation. Let us consider Adventure Women India. Founded by Minal Mathur, the community group aims to empower women who want to travel alone comfortably and safely. 

“When a woman travels alone, safety becomes a prime concern. I know this because I wanted to explore places on my own. The right information, guidance, and suggestions, especially from experienced travelers, is helpful to address issues around safety,” she says. 

This led her to create a virtual platform where women could share their experiences and motivate, inspire, and guide fellow travelers. Minal says, “When I set it up, I paid close attention to defining the platform’s purpose: to help solo women travelers get all the right information and support they need to undertake the journey they want to fearlessly.” 

Providing quality content

The next step is ensuring community members have access to quality content. Consider, for example, entrepreneur Rinku Shah who founded Fitness2Flash

Rinku created Fitness2Flash “to give all women everywhere a chance to build strength and health despite hectic lifestyles.” She says what has helped see her community of fitness enthusiasts grow is by ensuring that her platform always provides quality content to members. 

It includes engaging with members organically by replying to every incoming query and motivating members to stay resolute on their fitness journeys. 

Creating a safe space

The third factor is creating a safe space for community members. Take, for example, the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation. Founded by Nupur Lalvani, who has herself been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of eight, the foundation focuses on providing its members with all the information they need while providing a safe space.

“I started Diabetes Support Network India on Facebook because I could not find an India-centric, online diabetes support group, and I know now that not only my life but the lives of thousands of other diabetics and their caregivers are better and more supported because of the group,” Nupur says.

Nupur says she knew that investing in its regular upkeep is also important besides creating a safe space for all members. “I knew it was going to be important for the foundation to offer a safe space for people to share experiences and ask questions without judgement or negativity,” she says. This is why Nupur embedded a unique feature on her online platform that lets members ask questions anonymously.

“During the lockdown, we had a lot of people reaching out and asking for help. We also run a free diabetes and mental health helpline called the Buddy Project Helpline run by trained volunteers living with diabetes who have spent over 60,000 minutes on one-on-one counselling,” Nupur adds.

Providing expertise

A fourth factor that is crucial in helping community initiatives foster engagement and create impact is their commitment to providing group members with easy access to expert input and advice. Rinku from Fitness2Flash says, “having experts on the team moderate the group and provide knowledge helps distinguish the group from its peers and reassures members that the information they are receiving is backed by research and expertise.”

Minal from Adventure Women India agrees. She says roping in expert voices in discussions goes a long way in signaling to community members that the advice they are receiving is genuine and trustworthy. 

Fostering inclusion

The fifth factor is a sense of inclusion. As Nupur says, “We welcome people with diabetes and do not allow shaming or stigma around the condition, body types, or medical complications. Members are welcome to share their questions and thoughts with us.”

Rinku agrees. She says, “fostering a positive environment on the group, which is welcoming to all women, ensures there is no space left for negativity to fester. I am determined to offer all interested members with a space that encourages everyone’s fitness journey no matter where they are on it,” she adds.