User groups are struggling. So what’s next?
The importance of human engagement can never be underestimated, especially when challenging times are ahead and exciting innovations are being built. Shared lessons learned, experiences, and conversations can together spark curiosity, inspire new ideas, invent solutions and validate practicality.
Connection and relevance – these instinctive needs are the driving force behind every community.
For decades, this desire to be relevant has created thousands of user groups. Real-life technology practitioners, process experts and business leaders would gather at annual meetings, monthly chapter meetings and intermittent happy hours to talk shop and network.
While user groups have served their members well for more than 30 years, we must remember that the concept was created for a time when technological innovation happened over the course of years. Upgrades were completed once a year, significant overhauls were a once-in-a-decade event for most businesses, and even a complete rip-and-replace implementation project was unheard of.
Those days are long gone. Technology changes much too quickly and the pace of the traditional model for user groups cannot keep up as a result. As soon as one meeting ends, digital investments, needs and mindsets can be completely different when members move onto the next. And in most cases, it can feel like three years of transformation have passed by until the next monthly chapter meeting takes place.
Disconnect inspires an opportunity for revival
Let’s face it – user groups are struggling. There’s a deep divide between the pressures of real-world business transformation and the availability of user group interaction. And members are responding in kind with dissatisfaction, disengagement and ultimately, disconnection.
People want and expect – nay deserve – more. A community with real impact embodies nine key characteristics which I think we can all agree on: content, curation, curriculum, coaching, connection, conversation, collaboration, crowdsourcing and caring.
This next-generation mindset matches the current energy in today’s social circles. Every chance to collaborate and develop ourselves and each other through mentorship, volunteerism, education, networking and engagement is viewed as an opportunity to increase the efforts, influence and success of our professional and personal lives.
Instead of running periodic touchpoints, next-generation communities allow people to work together consistently with active participation and tangible action. Members then expand their network and create innovations that can transform their businesses, bring value to customers and even make the world a better place.
Nothing beats the feeling of a place where people bond around shared ideals, feel valued and have a voice in decisions that affect them and beyond. So why not do the same in today’s technology user groups?
The community is the ecosystem
While user groups have afforded a wide variety of opportunities over the years, they cannot neglect the urgent need to rethink, renovate and renew how people engage with each other and innovate. A community that genuinely cares for each other and thrives together can make a difference not just for businesses, but also for the humans touched by those businesses.
Unquestionably, the technology ecosystem is entering another exciting era, making next-generation communities more necessary than ever. The ecosystem must serve the needs of the community first, not the other way around. And when those connections are embraced, no matter how unexpected, the ecosystem can navigate the changes that few people are brave enough to consider and thrive in a world that is only becoming more complex.