How are we building our “community soil?

Via Hyperlocavore, I watched this video on preparing an urban, raised-bed garden. It focuses on the building of raised beds, using rotating small animal waste, and hoop houses to get an early start on the gardening season. If you are interested in gardening, take a look at the video. If not, skip the video and hop below for the online community connection.

Last week, I pondered the agricultural metaphor for knowledge sharing. The idea of “gardener” as a community role is not new, nor is the ecosystem metaphor.

So what are the practices for communities that are akin to the late winter preparation for Spring gardening?

In the video, Gardening Girl talks about:

  • start with clean, well drained soil
  • use a modular design so you can easily take care of your garden
  • use all the creatures available – chickens and rabbit hutches rotated over dormant beds to do off season soil building (in other words, good s$%#)
  • take advantage of free stuff to build soil – leaves and grass clippings
  • cover unused beds
  • build¬† simple hoop houses to get an early start on the season (she even shows us how – it’s easy!)
  • raised beds take the back breaking work out of gardening, bringing the garden to you
  • intensive gardening saves water and increases yield

From an online community building perspective, this might translate to:

  • Clean soil – simple environment. Make sure the technology you use is aligned to the core needs of the community – what tasks do they need to do together. Other stuff can be added later, but if you start with a mess, you’ll end with a mess.
  • Modular – can tools, processes and content for or developed by the community be used easily in different ways? Can you repurpose something for another use if needs change or you need to expand or contract? Can you easily add and subtract activities and tools?
  • All the Creatures – who is already doing something similar? Are there early joiners who have something to add to the initial start up building and process? Use what is available! Be creative. Don’t let things go to waste!
  • Use the Free Stuff – Look around and see what free things can support (build the soil) your community.¬† Can you put up with some ads and use a free tool? Can you recycle existing resources (and save the earth a bit along the way). If you have a budget, where is it best spent? On tools, or the rare chance for a face to face? On technology, or chocolate? (well, I may be getting carried away.) Make recycled chic and focus your resources where they count – on people.
  • Cover Unused Beds – empty spaces create empty feelings. Is some part of the community technology configuration unused? Are there dead forums? Pull out the good content and recycle it elsewhere, and either archive of button up the empty spaces. But be careful about what you delete. See these threads on the ComPrac list about the dangers of assumptions about archives.
  • Hoop Houses for Early Starts – sometimes online communities need a smaller, protected space to germinate, build trust and get strong to withstand some of the buffets of the open world. This may mean finding an existing set of core members and gradually growing, or creating a little hot house to get things going.
  • Raise the Beds – like higher planting boxes that reduce stooping, bringing community as close to where people are now rather than making them go further out of their way to participate. Can you piggy back on their community rather than starting a new one? Are there some simple overlaps or complementarities that suggest some sort of cross community collaboration?
  • Intensive Gardening – good soil retains water and has greater yields. Good nurturing, leadership, stewardship and followership makes it easier for communities to focus on why they came together in the first place. This is not about control, but creating space and conditions for success. So a little extra work up front can go a long way. But like anything, don’t get carried away. Like a garden, a community has its seasons and it changes over time. Be as intensive as is right for the moment!

So is Spring approaching in your community? What are you doing to prepare?

2 thoughts on “How are we building our “community soil?”

  1. Hi folks!

    Thank you for the mention of hyperlocavore. I really appreciate it!
    I just wanted to mention that I may eventually move the site, so the web address that will always work is

    Happy Digging!


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