How do you bring people into your space and extend the work out to the community?

25 posts / 0 new
Last post
How do you bring people into your space and extend the work out to the community?

To help start the conversation and keep the focus of this discussion thread, please consider the following questions:

  • How to build community around this space?
  • How do these spaces extend into the community that they serve - how do you connect the space to the space around it?
  • How do you attract people to work in your space?  How do you facilitate those interactions?  How do you keep them engaged?

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments! Participants are encouraged to share web images of their spaces!

Dynamics of Community Growth

One of our key guiding principles at n community creativity is that:

Place-based (face to face) communication is vital because it creates a foundation and a 'container' necessary for initiating and building resilient relationships for community wide creativity. At the same time, the Internet has opened a channel for shared online community spaces, instrumental to maintaining established momentum through effective follow-up, continuous feedback, and outreach expansion. 

How can face to face and virtual spaces come together to harness community growth and relational innovation?

Involving all community members

One of the key factors for any project to be successful is to have the community involvement since the very first stages.  These libraries are community owned since the beginning of the implementation process, in which volunteers organize themselves in community boards that seek complementary funds to build and manage the library, including negotiations with local governments so that they provide the physical space, the salary of at least one librarian and basic services.  The libraries offer free services and programs to everybody and constantly promote local initiatives involving children, adults and elders to address community issues.  Examples include a GPS community mapping project, which consists in training librarians and volunteers to use mapping devices and to develop maps of natural, sacred and historical sites.  This process has had the involvement of all community members in which they get together to decide which places to map and then walk through the communities registering them.  The maps are used to create conservation and promotion plans which are available at the libraries.

Trust - Commitment - Authentic Engagement

romeo wrote:

One of the key factors for any project to be successful is to have the community involvement since the very first stages.

Having the community involvement in the first stages is so KEY. Yes ! Thank you Romeo for opening this thread and sharing your experience.

Coming to a common intention creates the backbone for the community-action process. In Community Voices, a participatory design with the community members (intergenerational) prior to initiating the program was hosted in the public libraries. Individuals of all ages and backgrounds came together, sharing the highlights of what joins them in their locality, followed by formulating together a meaningful question for them: “How can we responsibly develop our community and neighborhood?  What is our personal role?”

 a tree is planted collectively - a symbol of seeding their joint decisions in their common community space awaiting their attentive nurturing and watering to grow.

Community members expressed that the invitation to co-design what they would personally want to explore and learn more about, was an experience of trust in their knowledge, capacity and their own needs. Intentions are coming from within the community not imposed on them. This propelled a sense of commitment and authentic engagement.

The generated programs would show up from within the community and the matching with appropriate funding and support networks will respond and happens afterwards.

Participative Management

I agree with the views shared by Romeo and Hala. Community involvement is perhaps the most important factor designing these spaces. In Chile, the public library network implemented from mid 90s a new methodology, called "participative management". It was guided by the concept that communities served by libraries should be part of the strategic planning of their services. Somehow, this was a turning point in their history, because public libraries in our country depend from local governments (municipalities) and they were not used to reach their decisions in an open and collective way.

Participative management was based in three pillars: 

1) Mapping the community, in order to identify key social organizations and their information and cultural needs

2) Planning assemblies, open meetings to which community members were invited, in order to define the most important goals the libraries should include in their workplans

3) Developing projects based in that goals.

In doing so, in an important number of libraries active Friends of the Library groups were created, local associations based in volunteers that helped libraries develop the new services or thinking new ways of delivering traditional services.

After the first years of this experience, a handbook was written, sharing the best practices. You can download the PDF (in Spanish) at the end of this note describing participative management:

Library extension services

Gracias Enzo for sharing this document, it’s very interesting and useful.  It called my attention the “lending books to penitentiaries”.  It is something that one of our libraries was doing and turned out into something we didn’t expect.  More than two years ago the library director from the Chiché community was asked by a social worker if she could do something for the prisoners at the town penitentiary.  She agreed and started bringing books to the penitentiary every other week and formed a book club with the prisoners.   She was very intimidated at first but then she gained the respect and appreciation of everyone in there.  After almost a year of carrying out that activity we received a letter from the prisoners asking for our support to implement a library inside the penitentiary.  We started collecting books and in November last year we inaugurated the first library ever inside a penitentiary.  Not only they have their own library now but they were  trained to form a library committee board to oversee its good management, to classify the books and two prisoners were also trained to be the librarians.

Guiding Principles - to bring people and expand the community

From our experience, the guiding values that build and maintain the relationships within a community are:

  • trust 
  • non‑judgment
  • ownership/responsibility
  • imagination
  • creativity
  • open hearted collaboration
  • mindful cooperation
  • acceptance
  • respect
  • fun
  • acknowledgement 
  • and connectivity
Identify Core Values

I suggest you take a look at Simon Sinek's TEDxTalk, Start with why.

It outlines a framework for motivating people to action - in this regard, getting people to your space and extending the work out to the rest of the community.

In a nutshell, building up a set of shared values that resonate with the members as well as the community creates a channel through which people can contribute and be involved in the activities of the space.

At Jamlab, one of our strongest values that shapes all our activities is collaboration. This basically tells other people that we're open to their ideas and working with them.

The values should be communicated very clearly and objectively to the members and community and we should allow it to form the base of all the activities as well as the culture of the space.

Simeon Oriko

Collaboration is key for Jamlab

mtotowajirani wrote:

At Jamlab, one of our strongest values that shapes all our activities is collaboration. This basically tells other people that we're open to their ideas and working with them.

Thanks for sharing this, Simeon!  I am eager to learn more about the kinds of activities and projects that people in your space collaborate on...

How to encourage farmers

Since our project Agrolib-Ja is related to rural residents, who live in small communities, we knew that it would be pretty hard to encourage them to come to the libraries. They did not have trust in libraries because they could not see the purpose of their existence in their communities. Therefore, librarians played a very important role in attracting people coming to the libraries. Their reputation and engagement in the project determined whether farmers would start visiting the libraries or not. The librarians were very active when it came to introducing the services of the libraries to the local residents. In the beginning, farmers who knew our librarians personally started visiting the libraries and it was only after they had realized that these were not useless spaces with a librarian, books and computers, their friends, families, relatives and acquaintances started coming. What they did was spreading the word that something was actually going on in the libraries.

ITC training, reading books and magazines and lectures kept farmers coming regularly.

Lectures were particularly interesting for farmers because they could hear a lot of useful information, advice and suggestions from recognized experts about farming etc. Even farmers from surrounding villages (where libraries do not exist) come to lectures

Libraries connecting farmers and government services

jelenar wrote:

...librarians played a very important role in attracting people coming to the libraries. Their reputation and engagement in the project determined whether farmers would start visiting the libraries or not. The librarians were very active when it came to introducing the services of the libraries to the local residents. 

Jelena, thank you for sharing this example of how, through the efforts of librarians, farmers have started to enjoy the services of the Agrolib-Ja project. Your account reminds me of a recent example of Romanian libraries partnering with a government agency to meet the needs of rural farmers. Libraries throughout Romania have partnered with the Payment and Intervention Agency in Agriculture (APIA) to help farmers apply for agricultural subsidies at the library. In January 2011, APIA partnered with a number of libraries throughout Romania to provide access to an online agricultural subsidy application system. 

This process vastly reduced the amount of travel and cost required for farmers to reach a centralized APIA office. Bringing the application service to every rural library throughout Romania, farmers can now save time and money as they engage in the applcation process. In 2011 alone, over 17,000 farmers completed applications for agricultural subsidies at public libraries with a total subsidy value reaching EUR 20 million. This innovative de-centralization of vital government services resulted in a total savings of approximatley EUR 150,000 for farmers (traveling expenses).

These are the tangible results. What is so exciting is that many of these farmers will soon discover other resources in the library. New ways to connect with family and friends. New techniques and approaches to improve their work. Partnerships like this provide a win-win for government agencies and public libraries. National-level services increase their reach and libraries provide resources and expertise. Getting people in the door is only the first step, but it is a big first step.        

Serving the community

The Romanian example shows that the link missing between farmers and the state is a library.

Farmers in Serbia have difficulties in getting latest information from the Ministry of Agriculture. We used our project to change that fact and help farmers. We got in touch with the Network for Rural Development, a project by the Ministry of Agriculture. Its representatives could not always reach farmers and provide information.

 Therefore, the representatives of the Network together with the librarians used the space of our rural libraries to provide information on grants, loans and incentives offered by the Ministry of Agriculture, to help farmers apply for subsidies, etc.

Libraries are centers

One more thing: by inspiring people to explore, read and learn, libraries connect people to each other and their communities. Libraries provide opportunities for everyone to meet their democratic, cultural, educational and economic needs.

It is important to point out that all all the activities and processes happening in the library, are not necessarily limited to the library. Libraries are centers  from which everything expands beyond library walls and influences each individual and whole communities.

The first step towards bringing people in libraries is responding to people's needs, usually hidden, but if you are persistent enough to explore them, you will be successful in providing exactly what they need.


AltCity's Unique Design of Space

There are 3 key elements inherent in our space which drive traffic to it, thereby increasing citizen participation: the location of AltCity, its multifunctionality and its openness.
AltCity is located at the center of the capital, in a city booming with youth and known for its alternative creative urban style.

The multifunctionality of the space attracts a diversity of people. The space is divided into:

  • Private offices
  • Shared co-working spaces
  • Workshop rooms
  • Design Lab/Makerspace
  • Newsroom Cafe
  • Library


The openness of the space automatically puts any AltCity visitor in direct contact with social media experts, entrepreneurs, journalists, bloggers, etc. This creates a resourceful environment bustling with ideas and energy.

How do you attract new people & extend services to community?

Thanks for sharing this, AltCity Team!

How does AltCity attract new participants?  And alternatively, what approaches do you use to extend your services and outcomes into the community around you?  Thanks!

Reaching Out

The main source of traffic to our space are the events we host. These have varied greatly from fun workshops (ex: LED and Upcycled Glass Fixtures workshop) to conferences (ex: Business for social change) to casual targeted meetings (ex: francophone bloggers & journalists meeting).

It is important to note that most events are organized by the community. People with great ideas but no resources can come to AltCity and have our space at their disposal.

Community Outreach - Network of Networks

One of the methods we found effective to extend into the community is through the community members themselves.

Once a strong relationship was formed between the community members, the place and the work, each was asked to invite around 5 people they trust will find the community meaningful to the next gathering.This expanded the community in an efficient and non disruptive way, as only people who were attracted to the community and the gatherings showed up.

Social media (facebook/linkedin/twitter) was also a form of announcing gatherings - yet the most reliable in our experience based on the nature of the co-creative space we are offering is through the community members outreaching to their networks - building meaningful connections. 

Social Media

Following up on your post, Hala, we also found it very effective to involve people through social media. We always make sure to advertise our events on Facebook and Twitter repeatedly. We also make it a point to live-tweet and post pictures from all the events we host or attend. It also goes without saying that we reply to all inquiries and thank our followers on a regular basis and even recommend some of them through #FF.

Here are some stats from our social media platforms.

End Sept 2011:
Twitter: 394 followers
Facebook: 292 fans
Beginning of January 2012:
Twitter: 741 followers
Facebook page: 462

Now (Aug 13th)
Twitter: 1487 followers
Facebook: 771 fans (likes)

Ways that we use social media to bring people into the space: advertise events through them, #FF, posting photos, posting info in key groups/on key pages, live-tweeting from events....

Not only accessing, but generating cultural information

Fostering community participation through projects that promote local culture and traditions, strengthening their identity and sense of belonging, has been another successful experience.  Six libraries from the network have published 8 bilingual books written in three different Mayan languages (Tz’utujil, K’iche’ and Mam) and translated to Spanish.

This process started with the collection of legends and stories from the communities, told by grandparents in their local Mayan language.  These stories were translated to Spanish by librarians and volunteers, and all the book’s illustrations were made by local young artists.  Before printing these books they were reviewed by the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages, the elders who told the stories and different community members to make sure that they accurately represent their culture.  These books not only made the community proud but they are also being used for story hours in Mayan languages and to support bilingual education efforts at a national level.

Receiving the first book

Bilingual books video

Moving the stories outwards ~~

romeo wrote:

Fostering community participation through projects that promote local culture and traditions, strengthening their identity and sense of belonging, has been another successful experience.

Romeo, this is so INSPIRING. I have recently become engaged with understanding and resonating with Mayan culture, and what a Contribution to the world would "Elder stories" be to bring more awareness.I really sense that it would be an AMAZING GIFT for the international community who are opening up into learning and connecting with other cultures. Storytelling and StoryMoving are the old/new ways of preserving culture and moving it forward. This story of listening to elders, capturing their stories, producing books which are used for exchange and growth within the local community (and seeing the picture of the children in story hours) truly touches my heart. Thank you for sharing Romeo. 

Do you think it will be possible to have them also in English, while keeping the Mayan language version in the story - i.e. a bilingual book rather than a translated book ? and possibly, digital books for ease of accessibility and spread in the international field of interest ?


Promoting and sharing culture through technology

Thanks Hala, we have discussed the possibility of printing a bilingual version Mayan-English so that we can share these books with a broader public and also to generate income to continue publishing more oral traditions.  But right now we are more focused in a reprinting process, since the Ministry of Education wants to distribute these books in rural areas to support bilingual education, which is great.  We are also talking with EBSCO Publishing so that we can also offer them in digital versions or e-books.  There are many ideas around these books because it is a very innovative approach to rescue and preserve oral traditions.

We have also thought of making audio books so that these stories can be shared through community radios and that people can hear what these languages sound like.  In this link you can hear a librarian who participated in the process read a segment of one of these books written in Mam:



Moving the stories into our networks ~~

Very impressive Romeo.

I was immersed when hearing the story read in Mam.  How powerful is the VOICE when heard - sometimes more than when words are read ! 

I will be sharing the link with my friends and network. 

With gratitude - Hala


There's a woman's cooperative in Beirut called Nasawiya. (I wish I had thought to invite them to this discussion before now, but my brain was calling them a women's organization instead of a digital empowerment organization). They have one of the best, most active online presences in civil society in Lebanon and they also host Girl Geek Camps for young girls to get them revved up about technology and using social media for social change, plus lots of other events. As leaders of the local anti-racism movement, they've started hosting Saturday night dinners cooked by women from the migrant domestic worker communities as a way of introducing Sri Lankan, Ethiopian, Philippine and other cultures to Lebanese at their new Nasawiya Cafe. I was talking to one of their lead organizers lately and loved her statement that "before you can fill their heads, you have to fill their bellies." This is true for just about anything, I think. To bring in more digital (beyond awareness raising), I can see producing an e-cookbook or Tweeting out recipes. Who knows...

Reaching the unreached

In 2011 Public library in Jagodina was the host of Biblionet, the greatest and most significant library symposium in Serbia, because of the success it had with Agrolib service. Agrolib service inspired the organizers of the symposium and the main topic was Unreached Users

The participants in the event had the opportunity to visit one of the village libraries inluded in the AgroLib project, the library in Bagrdan. There was a forum- Information as a key to improving farmers’ lives- AgroLib-Ja .

Our special guest in the library in Bagrdan was Mr Bou Abrahamsson. He was on holiday in Serbia, visited our library, got interested in Agrolib service and wanted to share with our Biblionet guests his experiences while impelementing a similar project in Sweden- Tele-cottage 20 years ago.

We managed to reach the unreached users in our community by using our rural library spaces and presented the idea of Agrolib service to our colleagues from libraries across Serbia. The project got the attention of library public. All of them thought that the idea of the project was great and some of them told us that they would try to adapt Agrolib service to their communities. Lack of financial means was their only barrier.

The Agrolib idea of rural library spaces was the inspiration for libraries in other countries. These are: Klintaine Public library in Latvia, Pasvalys Marius Katiliskis Public Library in Lithuania and Public library Goce Delcev in FYR Macedonia. All of them are implementing their projects with common goal: to enable access of information to farmers in rural libraries by using new information and communicaiton technologies.


Door to Door with Paper Sign-up Sheets

While our place-based neigbors forums are online (post on another topic), our outreach leverages traditional community organizing techniques.

We will have soon signed up 2500 people one at a time across St. Paul on paper sign-up sheets - in addition to our online outreach. While Facebook makes it easy for people to "Like" stuff and Groups are more bonding (smaller better than larger), a lot of online only networking only reaches the most wired and already connect folks. With our model, as long as you can push reply via e-mail (from home, a library terminal, your smart phone) you can publish to the community. You never need to visit our web site (of course you can turn off the e-mail and use the web site instead.)



So while we don't have a digital work space, the opportunity to gather from physical places, build communication and trust online and then get people back out into the community is key. With our big inclusion push (well funded by the Knight Foundation) to whole idea is to "break the ice" among very diverse communities (Hmong, African-American, Somali, Latino, lower/middle income Whites, etc.) who live in the same area and work to make the existing opportunities for civic engagement more accessible/inviting to all. The more in-person gatherings promoted or launched via the forums the better.

Here is a presentation - slides and video - with some stories from last year.


Topic locked