The Power of Communities

A lot of attention is dedicated nowadays to social networks, but it’s easy to forget that the main underlying reason for such networks to exist and thrive is to leverage the power of communities. This post aims at describing the multifaceted potential of communities, going from the different types you might encounter all the way to concrete examples, also touching the reasons why you should consider how well connected you are into your relevant communities.

Virtual and physical communities

The first meaningful attribute of a community at this day and age is whether or not it is online. Our lives have been so significantly changed by the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and others that offline communities almost seem like a niche. This impression, however, is misleading. Whether we notice it or not, most of us take part in a number of – more or less organised – offline communities, which play an extremely meaningful role in our lives.

If you consider from your extended family to your work- (or study-)place. Take the people in your gym or those who share your religious beliefs, we all physically meet groups who share something meaningful with us. The role of online communities in my view is that of supporting and enabling such real-life sharing opportunities. Social networking certainly has the potential to be used in such a way, but it is often the case that it creates and entretains biased or commercially-minded groups. Examples of the former problem are often discussed around the observed political divide in different countries, whereas the second is linked for instance with the growing number and relevance of online targeted advertisement, ever better informed about their target consumer and often moderating or with a relevant role in given local communities.

Having made the point regarding the importance of offline communities, we present a number of communities that – albeit meeting physically – can be found online, a click away for you reading this.

Open, closed and selective communities

Communities also need to organise the possibiity of entry by newcomers, and in this sense they couldn’t be more different from one another. Whereas some groups are welcoming to all, and keen to have new members, others make a point out of being selective or even functioning as an entirely closed community.

For many years now, I’m most often participating in online communities through Meetup, mainly because the platform strikes me as open – offering relative freedom to group organisers and participants – and also their goal is to support such online groups to actually meet as and when they want. Whereas I’ve made many friends through such events – and once you do, you could stop going to meetups – the huge benefic of having the community there is exactly to continuously draw like-minded people to join. A more permanent renewal – with fresh impressions coming in – happen naturally in a permanently open group.

That is not to say communities should avoid having requirements for new entries. Often those requirements are key to ensure the community is made out of the people organisers have in mind. Having said that, some of my favourite FinTech groups and events are not those made for specialists, but rather those solely organised by specialists but open to the wider public. When you bring outsiders to your community, you are stimulated to make topics understandable and engaging, whereas specialists already know the basics and can endure much more detail and specificity in presentations.

FinTech Groups in and around Düsseldorf

Let me mention some of my favourite communities, mostly around FinTech, for those who are close to Düsseldof, NRW, Germany. Bear in mind, even if you are not in this location, that most urban centers will have some sort of organised communities that you can find, and if not maybe it’s time for that movement to start.

Düsseldorf FinTech Meetup – the biggest FinTech group I know in Düsseldorf, meeting quarterly since 2015;

Düsseldorf FinTech Internations Group – a small internationally-minded group mostly exchanging about FinTech in a relaxed atmosphere;

StartupDorf – largest entrepreneurship community in Düsseldorf, focused on a spectrum of topics among which FinTech. Events are often a great opportunity to meet startupers.

Düsseldorf Data Science Meetup – cool English-speaking group organising data science events, they normally have really good venues and often offer good food, in addition to interesting talks.

FinTech und InsurTech Meetup Cologne – Bonn – largest FinTech community I could find in Köln, sometimes partnering up with bigger events or meeting in the smaller city of Bonn.

Finfinity Meetup – newer FinTech group – over a year of meetups – brings in a lot of energy and some cool speakers and topics to the scene in Köln.

A significant number of groups also meet around company-promoted events and communities. This could be a list for a future post given that some of them started out as cool Startups – and there is even a FinTech among them in Düsseldorf, but we won’t go into that right now.

Also worth noting that a number of Cryptocurrency-related groups have recently emerged, but even having gone to a few such events, I’m still pending on more research on these communities to be able to introduce them properly.

Keeping up-to-date and stepping up your game

So if a topic interests you – say FinTech because you are reading this – the benefits of attending such events are very multiple. Firstly, there is no better way to keep in touch with state-of-the-art discussions on the field. Speakers are often pitching their novel ideas and display their fresh views on the topic and trends, so you may even get to witness the next big thing emerge as it’s still just starting!

In addition to that, after going to a number of events, you also tend to refine your opinions about the topics you enjoy. Sure, there are always those who are endlessly optimistic or skeptical about new things, but assuming you are aiming at learning how to rationally assess the potential of given startups, nothing is better than listening to a lot of good ones.

Make it Social, find your community

Another big recommendation from my part is not to limit yourself to what is out there. As I mentioned, I use a lot of Meetup, but also Internations, Xing, LinkedIn, Eventbrite and others. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of those platforms, I for one try to steer away from Facebook because of my perception of its disadvantages (of course there are cool groups there as well, though). Start your community-building by looking at those platforms for what is available close to your location, even if not exactly what you are looking for.

If that doesn’t prove fruitful, then you need to go ahead and talk to people about organising your own group. Start with those who you know also like your topic of choice, you might end up with a few early members, or even co-organisers. Should you have questions on where to start or if you really should, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to help point you in the right direction. Don’t forget: communities are a great asset for your and your ideas to consolidate and reach more people, taking good care of them will only help you reach success.

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