The Kindness of Strangers

27 Oct

Association communities can depend on “the kindness of strangers” to bring huge benefits to all association members. In case that phrase rings a bell; it is by Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and the full quote is “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

Association member engagement requires association member time which is a valuable commodity. Members of your association may initially log in to a community out of curiosity but what will keep them coming back? There are many member benefits to being part of an association community, but research and expert opinion ranks networking and access to specialized information close to the top. Adult learning recognizes a related fact. People are most ready to learn when faced with a problem that they can not solve by themselves.

How does this relate to associations and the kindness of strangers? A simple example is a person at work faced with a problem. They need help. In the past, they would ask someone that they thought could help by visiting or calling a coworker, colleague, boss or supplier.

An online association community that has a question and answer capability allows members to easily ask questions 24/7 and get an answer from an expert across the country or in another country. Software with reputation measures helps evaluate the person answering and thus, to some extent, the quality of the answer. Backup documents can be placed in the community library so that the rest of the community can benefit not only from the question and answer but from the references. Subsequent discussion relating to different views or greater detail can lead to refinement of answers and alternative approaches to a problem. A simple question can create a collaborative forum with member comments and even polls.

Why should a member answer a question or make a comment? To some degree this is the advantage of a private association community. The comfort of being in your own association and the ability to give back to colleagues and friends makes relying on the kindness of strangers a workable option and a real association benefit to all concerned.

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