I always thought of the Community Canvas as a “work in progress” document. What we launched in May 2017 was a pretty rough draft and I assumed we would be updating it regularly.

But that’s not what ended up happening; we haven’t actually updated the Canvas since publishing version 1. The reasons are twofold: On the one hand we got a strong and overall positive response to the first version. On the other hand I started to see some shortcomings that were pretty fundamental and structural. Such edits couldn’t be done in a quick update, but needed a longer, more intentional process.

Thoughts about what needs updating

Since launching the first version in 2017, I spent most of my time studying other communities, applying the Canvas in my own community work, speaking with a broad variety of community builders and trying to publish my ongoing learnings here on this blog. Here are some big picture observations about the first version of the Canvas:

  • For me the main intention with the Canvas was and continuous to be about helping as many people as possible to build meaningful communities. But what I have learned over the last 1.5 years is that we have to actually define and be explicit what we mean by “meaningful”, because that informs what we are actually designing for. This will be one of the hardest puzzles to solve for the next version and will need a variety of perspectives.
  • Many people find the Canvas too theoretical and are hungry for concrete examples. How can we create containers for anyone to contribute best practice and case studies?
  • Many of the “soft” elements of community building, such as commitment, consistency, simplicity, etc have not been included (or only tangentially).
  • The third section – Structure – feels underdeveloped. Many structural issues such as conflict, co-created leadership aren’t addressed.
  • People resonate with the 3 section approach, but often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of 17 themes. For similar reasons people resonate with the Minimal Viable Community approach which boils it down to fewer categories and questions.
  • I have received feedback from a variety of perspectives that the Canvas feels to mechanic, ignoring the more human reality of building communities (and maybe “building” isn’t the right term anyways).
  • Some types of communities feel that the Canvas isn’t for them. They don’t feel that the framework and questions speak to their actual realities. This raises the question in me: Can we make the Canvas a more inclusive document that supports a large variety of communities (without losing its power to guide and be practical)? Or do we need to focus on a specific type of community?
  • There is opportunity to provide better guidance how to apply the Canvas. There seems to be a training element that goes beyond the simple document. We have tried to address that through a series of workshops we held in 2017 and 2018, but don’t think we figured it out yet.

What do YOU think needs to be changed in the next version?

So this brings us to the present and the Canvas 2.0 project. Our intention is to launch the next version of the Canvas by September 2019 and we still have a lot of work to do till then 🙂 And we need your help!

We want to co-create the next version with a broad variety of perspectives and we’d SO appreciate hearing your voice. There are 2 simple ways to get involved:

  • If you have 5 minutes: leave your thoughts in this quick survey.
  • If you have 30 minutes or more: we’d love to chat with you about your experience with the Canvas and about your ideas how to make the Canvas better. Please fill in the survey and indicate when would be good to chat, so we can reach out and coordinate a time.

I’m grateful for everyone’s help, encouragement and feedback throughout the last 1.5 months. And I’m convinced that together we can create an even better guide for community builders out there. Thank you!