After a twelve-year run at The Community Roundtable, I am transitioning to a new venture reflective of the work I want to pursue more closely at this time. TheCR will remain and do much of the same work it always has. Its value is more vital than ever – and needed as more of the world discovers the need for a different management approach. Its services to help professionals learn and adapt are well-positioned to serve the growing demand. It is, however, time for me to pursue a new challenge.
In 2009 I had the ambitious goal to document the value of community and community management. Twelve years of State of Community Management research has largely addressed that objective. The research started by capturing qualitative practices and, over time, transitioned to collecting quantitative metrics, eventually identifying benchmarks of management maturity. With operational benchmarks, we worked to refine measurement standards and to translate those into financial value.
As we learned to measure communities in financial terms, I felt like we largely accomplished what I had set out to in 2009. This success is best exemplified in the work Heather Ausmus and I did in 2017 to accurately project growth using community ROI. The bulk of the giant hairball had been unraveled. There is still much work to do, but its focus is scaled services and communications, work that is better and ably left to those who remain on TheCR team, led by Jim Storer.
I believe that community management is the future of all management. Community management professionals are using networked governance to generate immense value without hierarchical and centralized control. I believe it is the future of organizational governance – governance that is more equitable, inclusive, and adaptive.
My primary interest has always been oriented around how community governance can transform work. Over the last decade, much of the advisory work I have done was collaborating on strategies for internal employee communities. It is thrilling when people shift their mental models and grasp that organizational performance improves dramatically by removing control and anxiety. By cultivating engagement and trust, organizations can divest much of their governance and oversight infrastructure, improving both their bottom line and their employees’ work experience.
Although a minority of organizations benefit from community-centric cultures today, there are enough to know it is possible. The COVID pandemic dramatically changed executives’ priorities around building culture digitally and moved community programs from a nice-to-have to a must-have for many organizations. While that shift may change as in-person gatherings become safe again, the appreciation of how digital communities can support and reinforce behavior and cultural objectives has forever changed.
I am drawn to the opportunity to help people find joy and a playful sense of possibility in their work. I want to be a part of transforming how work works and, in doing so, help people feel whole, valued, and secure. I want to be involved in this next big audacious challenge – and I see potential everywhere. More than anything, I want to collaborate with leaders who are as excited as I am to explore and invest in possibility.
Recently a client, as if he understood this implicitly, demonstrated this shift in leadership. Instead of the traditional perspective of setting a goal, planning out a budget, and communicating goals, he offered an exciting and challenging invitation to the team. Engaged and with what Benjamin Zander, author of The Art of Possibility, calls ‘bright eyes,’ he asked the group, “What if we could do this?” In a few words, he invited the group to imagine what might be possible and help him define it – instead of telling them what to do. The difference was both tiny and transformative.
I want to work with more leaders like him – individuals who invite collaboration and shared ownership, find fun and joy in their work and inspire others to engage.
Introducing Engaged Organizations
Enter Engaged Organizations. My goal with this new venture is to cultivate joyful and engaging cultures with clients who care and are invested in making a meaningful difference. A big part of that work is adapting governance models for possibility and emergence. Most of all I want to work with teams to navigate the messy path to sustainable culture change by empowering individuals. That type of advisory work is a different kind of business from the scaled services of TheCR and better suited to a different model.
My other interest is exploring how to use and apply what I have learned in commercial organizations in the government, educational, and policy sectors. Many of these public institutions are philosophically democratic but constrained by traditional governance structures, built for a different age. Using digital platforms, these public institutions can engage, connect, and collaborate with individuals at a scale and in a way never before possible. There is so much potential to create stronger civic connection and engagement – and it is desperately needed.
I will be forever grateful for my years at TheCR: the network of amazing peers and partners, the trust others placed in me, the things I was able to learn thanks to that trust, and most of all for the relationships and community TheCR allowed me to cultivate. Maybe it is telling that there are far more people to thank than I can mention here – because so many people played a part in making TheCR what it is. I want to thank Jim, who embarked on this adventure with me and helped me grow it to where it is today – I could not have done it without him.
I am immensely proud of what we all accomplished together. We demonstrated how a community of practice combined with research creates a juggernaut of innovation and advocacy. We collectively know so much more than when we started. Through it all, I have made life-long friends. It’s been an incredible journey.
I am excited to explore this next phase. Engaged Organizations is a work in progress but I am looking forward to working to make work better. As always, I will continue writing and ‘learning out loud’ – if you would like to stay in touch, get updates, or have a project to discuss, please reach out!
Congratulations on the his new adventure! Please let me know if and how I can support you on your journey.
Thank you Mark – you have been an incredible sponsor and advocate over the years and I’m grateful for all of your continued support!
I’m excited to take what I’ve learned over the last decade and apply it to organizational change.
Thank you for all that you have contributed to Community via the Community Roundtable with qualitative as well as quantitative research. I wish you all the best as you move forward to the new venture.
Thank you so much Mary – and please stay in touch. It’s been a joy to get to know you!
All the best to you, Rachel! Organization‘a sorely need what you are bringing to the table. If there’s any way I can support, feel free to reach out.
Thank you so much Marjorie – you have been such an inspiration and a thought leader in the community space and I have loved learning from you and following your journey. I think some executives are finally ready to apply what we have been learning in community management to entire organizations. It’s an exciting time!
CHRIS C THOMPSON
Congratulations on your new venture. I look forward to continuing to learn from you. And as you enter more into the “civic space” — the intersection of the public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors — and how organizations work together to both change “work” and community outcomes, I hope I can be of assistance to you. Your rigorous, data-driven approach will be a welcome addition.
Thank you Chris – one of the projects I am engaged with now is addressing this and I am really excited to see what we can do.
Tracy M Maurer
Rachel, the part that I jump up and down in agreement with, “I want to be a part of transforming how work works and, in doing so, help people feel whole, valued, and secure. I want to be involved in this next big audacious challenge – and I see potential everywhere.” That is what keeps me going, even when others around me don’t or won’t see it. I’m excited to see where you take this, and hoping that in some small (or large) way, I can be a part of it.
You go girl!!
Thank you Tracy – I am excited to see if I can make a dent in this area. We spend too much of our lives working for it to be a transaction that does not energize us. I refuse to believe we can’t be fully human – in the best way possible – at work. Maybe I am just stubborn ????
Rachel, your work has made such an impact on so many people and organizations, myself included. Thank you for your insights and foresight. I’m excited for your future and look forward to hearing more as it unfolds.
Thank you so much Jeff – you were a perfect foil and showed me how to DO community management well. It is not my skill set but having learned from you, I can better appreciate and value those that thrive in the role. You have also been an inspiration to so many and I’m happy we could lift each other up.
It’s a good time, and you are the right person to do this.
Thank you Stowe – coming from you, I consider that high praise. I’m looking forward to having more time to read – including your writing, which always brings a fresh or interesting angle that is important to consider.
Congratulations Rachel. Looking forward to hearing about where you take this idea and if we can be of help to you let us know.
Whoaaah! Big congrats! ???????????????????????? What an exciting new opportunity to continue the superb piece of work you’ve done over the years in helping organisations understand the many benefits of mastering the art of facilitating online communities as a new operating model and enter the brave new world of ‘Communityship’!
I wish you all the very best in that great new adventure, where I know the very best is yet to come, while helping others ‘find joy and a playful sense of possibility’ as you brilliantly described above!
I also wanted to share across a note of appreciation ???????? from yours truly for graciously allowing us all to be privileged witnesses of your work / life journeys over the course of the years! It’s been a real blast and I look forward to whatever next you will be shining the light on!
This is an evolution in work that is needed…so much potential and so few who have the skills to make it happen; and you are one of the best Rachel!
Thank you Will – that is kind of you. The proof will be in the pudding and yes, there is SO much potential to apply what we know about engagement from communities and apply it to organizations… IF there are couragous leaders.
Congratulations! Companies seeking better collaborative behaviors and engagement could not be luckier to have you! I am so excited!
Thank you so much Luke – it’s crazy to think about how long we’ve been on this journey together. Looking forward to more fun!
Congratulations, Rachel! With your feet firmly on the ground, you have always been oriented toward the future, and this is such a natural and exciting step. Let me know if you are going to form an advisory committee. I’d love to be part of it.
Thank you Steve – I sometimes wonder why I am propelled forward (I guess my ‘gift’ although it doesn’t always appear that way). An advisory board is a great idea – or maybe just a series of conversations about how to realize this future.
Congratulations Rachel — this sounds like a great pivot for you and something organizations desperately need, even though most of them don’t even know it yet. And you’re just the person to show them the way.
Good luck on your new adventure!
Thank you Dennis – I may show everyone right to your door so be careful!
Laurence Lock Lee
Our SWOOP tools are ready and waiting to be deployed Rachel Happe 🙂 In all seriousness decades of doing Organizational Network Analyses and becoming despondent about the resilience of the hierarchical governance structures; they are now finally ripe to be disrupted. It only took a global pandemic!
Thank you Laurence – I keep refering people to SWOOP because many can’t even see the real issue and keep addressing superficial problems (blaming individuals vs. the system). The enlighted companies have so much potential to pivot – and some CapEx savings from the pandemic… the time is right!
Congratulations Rachel to all you prior innovation and success, and cheers to your new venture; looks very interesting!
Erick! Thank you!
Congratulations. Seems a very natural direction given all that you share about your interests, experience and passions. Best wishes to you!
Thank you Simon – it is sort of back to the original reason I wanted to study communities. In communities I saw the answer to how organizations could adapt.
Fantastic news Rachel (!), and kudos to you for the courage to follow your heart and passions. You leave the CR in a strong position as you mention and I look forward to seeing the impact you will make in this new endeavor.
Thank you Brian – this is the issue I have always really cared most about and I can now see the pieces coming together (we know how communities create engaging environments now AND organizations are much more open to the opportunities to adapt). In many ways, that makes me too restless to be useful to TheCR any more and its services are still desperately needed. It was a good time to pivot.
What a fantastic new challenge, Rachel! Your knowledge, experience and passion for communities will do wonder, I have zero doubt about it. Long live Engaged Organizations! ????????
Merci Celine – I’m so encouraged by the evolving conversation and willingness to invest.
W00t!! Congrats Rachel this is awesome!
Thank you Maddie – you have seen the cross-over between community and organizational structures for a looong time and you were far ahead of the game. May we see so much more progress in the coming years!
I can’t wait to see where this new journey takes you. Thank you for your willingness to share your learning along the way. Congrats!
Thank you Tobi!
This is such great news. I’m excited for you.
I enjoyed working on the ROI projection, too, and appreciate your ongoing support and insights as I shared monthly updates with you on it – and overall, in my career building communities.
Thank you Heather – for being such a great collaborator. Some of the work we have done could not have been done by either of us alone and it is powerful. #BetterTogether and I’m looking forward to seeing where the future takes us both!
Wow, this is awesome! Your journey continues. Please let me know how I can help.
Thank you John – I still remember that reading your books was part of what blew my mind and helped me to see that there was another way to be as an organization. And once I knew it was possible – I had to figure out how to get there. Thank you for the inspiration.
Thomas Asger Hansen
Congrats Rachel. You have inspired myself and Grundfos in more ways than you know of. The flue in some of our most important work right now builds on the community and Governance blend – straight out of conversations we had Long Ago ???? I am personally thankful for the always open mind and posture you represent! We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when – but it will be sunny (and Vera Lynn agrees).
Thomas Asger Hansen
The flue part came out of AI (damn auto corrction of English in Danish browser) – should have been ‘the future’ !!
Thank you Thomas – I so enjoyed collaborating with you and I’m sure we will run into each other again. It’s funny how those ideas and applications we were developing 8? 10? years ago are just now getting real traction. In the interveneing time, we have learned a lot about community operations and governance that I believe holds some of the keys to organizational evolution. I also see so much need to apply what I know to the civic and government space as wild conspiracy movements take hold – society needs to ‘moderate’ in the way communities can.
Congrats, and good luck Rachel. Super exciting that you’re applying in the public and “third” sectors as well!
Congratulations and wishing you the best of luck. You’ve always been one of the pioneers in helping push the way people work, communicate and collaborate together forward. I hope our paths cross again soon.
Xhevair "Jev" Maskuli
The work you and the CR have done over the past 12+ years has been incredibly impactful in understanding and quantifying the importance, value, and best practices around community management. I’ve benefitted greatly from it over the years, and I’m really excited to see the impact you’ll have (especially in the public sector) in this next endeavor.
Let me know if I can help!
This is a most exciting announcement and I’m sorry I was slow to see it— congratulations on your new adventure, Rachel, and I expect much success. It is, indeed, time for you to contribute in new ways and I look forward to the ideas you will come up with and challenge us to think about. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.