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  Community Development Training?
Why should I train people to help develop my community?

Thank you very much for your question. It's an important one and one that involves the popular misconception that there is no need to train the people involved in building and managing community. This is often because it is assumed that enthusiasm is enough or that once a community is built it will run itself. Our experience, and that of many other people involved in online community development, is that training provides an excellent foundation for community management, moderation and development.

There are a number of areas where training can greatly enhance and improve the delivery of your community and make your community easier to manage. In each area there are key elements which good training should focus on. Let us begin by highlighting a few of those areas.


We often say that consistency brings trust. Training your community staff in standard techniques and skills and also providing them with common information regarding guidelines and goals provides an important injection of consistency. A community team which has not been trained is more likely to be inconsistent in their approach and in the manner in which they communicate the overall message to participants. Inconsistency is one of the key factors in making grievances happen ("...when X did that, it was different...") and conflicts occur (" treated someone else favourably...") - and inconsistency can have dramatic impacts on loyalty.

Training focus:
- site goals
- standard information
- guidelines
- preferred approaches


Training should be considered as part of the experience-building process and preparation for many of the different scenarios a community staff member may encounter in a community. A good training course will provide examples of situations, handling and outcomes so that there are exemplars for the staff member to draw upon. For example, how to deal with removing a member from a room or how to delete a post without creating too many waves. Without preparatory training a community is more likely to suffer from knee-jerk or panicked reactions on the part of its representatives. This is particularly true when it comes to the more awkward situations that both moderators and managers can find themselves in online. Similarly, a good training course provides the informational needs that community staff members will require in the course of the community participation. Being prepared through training with the information needed to ensure good reactions to requests and questions is key. Not only does it lead to better communication with participants but also less need to consult with managers.

Training focus:
- guidelines
- simulations and scenarios
- conflict resolution


An expectation of any form of training is that it leads to better skills and improved techniques in the community development arena. The quality of your staff's presence has a great bearing on the perception of the community, since they are effectively part of your front-line, your reception desk and your customer service department. A well-designed and delivered training course is an enhancement to the quality of service that your community teams provides. Training should also be viewed as a means of ensuring that only the most able individuals perform your community management functions. By going through training your staff can be assured of having fundamental skills and abilities which will serve you well. Any individuals who fail to succeed in training will most likely not provide you with the quality of service you require.

Training focus:
- communication skills
- moderation
- conflict resolution

Whilst community training is not a necessity for all communities, it should be considered a very important element for many. For example, if your community is driven largely as a form of customer sales or service provision then training for staff is extremely important. You would train a sales or support staff, so you should probably also train your online staff.

If the people who you anticipate will form the basis of your organisation's presence in your community have little or no experience of online communities then we would highly recommend that you look into community training services. Similarly, if you intend to invite members of your community into your moderation or management team then training is a must. In the long-run your community will benefit greatly from the consistency and quality of service that training will provide, and in turn, that will engender more positive results from your community.

We wish you the best of luck in your community development efforts and we thank you again for your great question!

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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