πŸ“» β€” Danielle Maveal on Bringing Our Full-Selves to Community

Reading Time: ~ 6 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

I spent the weekend reading this phenomenal book on leadership β€” I can’t recommend it enough! In fact, I may make it “required” reading for my team since I plan on using some of it organizationally…


A few links before we jump into our Monday interview issue!

  • Just… LOL.
  • Creator economy market map? Cool. Thanks Hugo!
  • For developer onboarding, but, useful for everyone.
  • Email digests via Slack? Cool. Congrats on the launch!
  • Cool live events all this season! Manual Cinema powered by Mixily!
  • Super powered meetings? Zoom? What. Macro.
  • Fascinating job descriptions, this one.
  • GoFundMe raised > $100m for basic living expenses. Community!

To infinity & community,

β€” john

Danielle isn’t a stranger to YEN.FM and we’ve featured some of her great work a few months ago with a deep-dive on building community with mission & brand in-mind β€” a tactical must-read for those who are specifically thinking in these ways about a new project and/or community!

But we didn’t get to know Danielle as much through that deep-dive and so I’m here to correct that in today’s issue! I really appreciate all that she’s done to further grow the space in and around community!

And, she was one of the first people to answer my original questionnaire! At the time, we were just a few subscribers which isn’t the case now!

Without further ado, here’s a few questions for Danielle…

So, what’s your “one-liner”?

What can we do together, that we couldn’t do alone? 

For starters, tell us the story of how you got into community and the most important moments (good and bad)!

I just moved to Detroit from Toronto and was feeling incredibly isolated and alone. At that time I was a goldsmith working out of my own garage, selling what I could make online.

I was doing this manually until my life changed: I found Etsy.

Etsy is great but even better with friends and I soon began tor each out to other sellers in the surrounding Detroit area β€” we were all so excited to collaborate, share best-practices, come up with promotions, events, and to simply β€” yes β€” build community.

This was so different from the goldsmith community which is very “old school” in their thinking and practice, hoarding knowledge, resources, and know-how from others. Instead of being open, they were private and highly-selective with who they gave their best, “trade secrets” β€” only vetted apprentices would get the goods.

This wasn’t my style at all and the collaborative nature of the early Etsy community was my jam. We quickly grabbed the attention of Etsy’s founders with all the fun activations we were popping up around Detroit and, to make a long story short, Etsy hired me to do this community work for and with sellers all over the world.

I had found a community, a career, and a calling.

Who mentored and coached you along the way? How has that been a part of your perspective on community building?

When I first started working in the community space ~15 years ago I didn’t have a ton of people to turn to for guidance and I learned, a bit later in life, how to actually ask for help as part of my professional growth.

One person in particular stood out: Caterina Fake, the co-founder of Flickr and an early Etsy investor. She was, in short, an incredible inspiration who always said that communities are built “one connection at a time” and how important it is to truly understand that every conversation mattered.

If you have a moment, listen to her podcast interview over @ Masters of Scale where she shares intensely her interest in building a more “human internet” β€” something that I emphatically agree with as worthy of pursuing.

With Caterina and the larger team at Etsy, I began to grow in my community skills and folks like Morgan Evans gave me the guidance and support that I needed to build the confidence that this was the right career path for me.

She helped me understand about the power of culture and how important it is to get it right! Or, as Reid Hoffman said on MoS:

In every kind of community β€” from a company to an online photo-sharing site β€” culture cements very quickly.

Reid Hoffman

Oh: Morgan is also an incredible organizational design consultant β€” tell her I said “Hi!” when you reach out to her!

You’ve seen (and grown) the inside of bigger and more “enterprise-ish” companies with large communities β€” what works well here that can be applied for younger communities? What do you wish larger companies did more of/

Glad you asked! Here are my 3 quick tips:

  1. Understand business goals and make sure your work impacts at least one of these goals. You might have support from your leaders and/or investors and they might even tell you community work is so important that it doesn’t have to align with business goals, but, it is in the community’s best interest that you build a sustainable, respected program. So do the work up front to understand how you can align community work with the mission of your brand or organization.
  2. Do not move forward with a strategy without having the right measurement pieces in place. You need to be able to track your investment in the community. Refuse to move forward until you have this written down and supported by leadership.
  3. Do not do this work in a silo! Find ways to bring in other teams to get the support and buy-in that’ll give you leverage. “Community work” should be community-driven and should not be in one, singular department; in many ways it should really be “the glue” that connects all the teams together.

Good luck! I’m here to help if you need me!

Danielle’s email newsletter

If you were to build a community from scratch today, what would your Community Building Stack be?Β 

I am doing this right now!

So, here are some of the things that I’m actively doing:

  1. I’m getting up-to-speed on the #nocode platforms that will give me the ability to build my project, business, and community without depending on too many other people.
  2. I’m looking at Circle as a decent plug-and-play solution as well as Mesh Communities.
  3. I’ve been thinking about Slack and despite that it’s not built for community, it’s a great place to start and Jacob Peter has a great overview of how to get that done.

I’ll be experimenting throughout the early-stages of my project.

What are a few things that you wish existed that currently don’t for digital community builders?

Yes, yes, and yes! Here are some immediate needs:

  1. Plug-and-play templates that utilize best-practices in certain operational-workflows or community-building processes. We seem to be constantly re-inventing the wheel!
  2. A more dedicated library of proven workflows, best practices, and projects could be useful β€” I know a few folks are working on this problem!

[Editors Note: We’ve got a growing list of tools and workflows here in the yeniverse! Thankful for all the community contributions!]


Peter ThielΒ Question: What important truth do most people disagree with you on?

Be vulnerable, be real.

A lot of people say this, but do they live it online? I get occasional feedback on how I put my full-self out there. And in general, women leaders and founders are given a ton of resources telling them to present themselves in a masculine, stoic, manufactured way that gets you further in an oppressive system.

Sorry, I just can’t do it.

I’m going to tweet that I feel like I don’t have all the answers, if I feel this way.

I’m also going to be goofy, silly, excitable! (Most women are cautioned to not present anything publicly that can be seen as a weakness.)

This crosses over into community work, you, of course, should be the person that can doggedly champion the community mission, but you should also be vulnerable and real with your community.

Show your members that this is how we really behave and that it’s okay to try to show up as our full-selves β€” if we can’t model this, how will they feel like they fully, authentically belong too?

Who should we deep-dive / connect with next?

You should probably connect with @KatVellos β€” she cares so deeply about that one connection. Friendship is so important to community building, and she’s the expert in that department!

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