The Community Canvas [Pfortmüller, Luchsinger, Mombartz]


In both professional and personal settings, there’s a growing understanding of the critical role communities play in our lives. The next step after buying into this premise is to start exploring how once can be more intentional in shaping those communities and monitoring their health. Similar to culture, while there are no good ones and bad ones, there are strong ones and weak ones. What sets the former from the latter is the degree to which the various elements that shape a community are defined and in alignment with one another. While much has been said and written on the topic, none competes in clarity and comprehensiveness with the work Fabian Pfortmüller, Nico Luchsinger, and Sascha Mombartz did in creating the

Community Canvas

The Community Canvas is a framework for creating, analyzing and improving communities. It lays out all the elements that define a community in a coherent canvas format. 

The canvas is divided into three main sections, each in-turn is broken down into more specific themes: 

Section 1: Identity — who are we and what do we believe in?

  • Purpose — Why does the community exist?
  • Member Identity — Who is the community for?
  • Values — What is important to us as a community?
  • Success Definition —  How does the community define success?
  • Brand — How does the community express itself?

Section 2: Experience — what happens in the community and how does it create value for the members? 

  • Selection — How do people join the community?
  • Transition — How do members leave the community? 
  • Shared Experiences — What experiences do members share? 
  • Rituals — What rituals happen regularly? 
  • Content — What content creates value for members? 
  • Rules — What are the community’s rules? 
  • Roles — What roles can members play?

Section 3: what gives us stability in the long-term? 

  • Organization — Who runs the community? 
  • Governance — How are decisions made in the community?
  • Financing — What is the community’s plan to be financially sustainable? 
  • Channels & Platforms — What channels does the community use to communicate and gather? 
  • Data Management — How does the community manage the data of its members?

Thinking about a particular community that you are part of, makes it easy to see the framework’s strength (and minor weakness) — Themes with clear and well-defined answers are areas in which the community is strong. Themes with no-so-clear answers, present opportunities for strengthening the community. My one nit of the framework is that while it’s fairly comprehensive, it’s not perfectly MECE some themes seem to have some overlap between them so there’s a structural opportunity to eliminate this overlap and likely simplify the framework a bit in the process. 

The Community Canvas framework is supported by a set of resources such as high level 7 — page summary of the framework, a more detailed 61-page guidebook, and a set of additional templates.  

If you are a community manager, aspiring to create a new community, or just an engaged community member, the Community Canvas is a must-use. 

The Community Canvas [Pfortmüller, Luchsinger, Mombartz]

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