Stitch is a member-driven community, created by members to help make life more enjoyable and full of fun for other members. In this respect, we are like many other communities, clubs, and societies, which are often driven by people making life better for each other.
But Stitch is different from most other communities in one very important way: it is made up of people who have never met before.
This poses a number of challenges, as it's difficult to feel a sense of "community" with complete strangers until you have created a connection with them.
Sometimes this means that some cities can have thousands of registered members, but very little community activity ... with everyone waiting until the community is up and running before they get fully involved.
Talk about a chicken-and-egg situation!
Here is the good news, though: dozens of Stitch communities have overcome this barrier, and have snowballed into incredibly active and dynamic communities, in cities all around the world!
Next time you open Stitch, change your search filter on the Activities page to look at what's on in Sydney, for example, and you'll see something like this:
Pages and pages of events and activities, with a crazy amount of community engagement creating thousands of connections between members!
Wouldn't it be great if every community was like this?
Well, that's what this article is for. It provides a step-by-step guide for anyone who wants to get the community active in their area.
We’ve created the guide as a series of videos, designed to help you understand not just some of the things you can do to get the community started, but also some of the social barriers that prevent other members from engaging initially, and why — if you remain patient and persevere — those barriers eventually go away as you start making an impact.
The hardest part is at the beginning, so don't give up! You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with a little bit of perseverance.
The videos in the guide can be watched in any order, but we’ve presented them in roughly the order that we recommend they be done over the first few months when setting out to get community activity going in a new local area. The steps are:
In the first month:
In the second month:
In month 3 and beyond:
The First Month
1. Set up your profile for community building
Before posting suggestions and activities to Stitch, each Pioneer should be encouraged to check their profile description to make sure it includes a few characteristics that we have found are important for community builders.
It’s all explained in this video:
2. Set up 3 activity suggestions
The first step to help lay the foundations for your local community is to post at least 3 Activity Suggestions for your area.
If you’re not familiar with Suggestions, or what makes them different from organized activities, check out this article.
The following video explains why Suggestions play a key role in helping kick-start a local community, and why we recommend starting with Suggestions before you post your first in-person Activity:
3. Set up a "kickoff" activity for your local community
By the time you decide it’s time to start getting community activities happening in your area, you might find there are dozens, if not hundreds, of members already registered in the area.
Some of these members may have signed up for Stitch a long time ago, so will need something to grab their attention and let them know that — yes, finally! — the community is going to get started in their area.
We have found that one good way to do this is to describe your very first activity in terms of it being a “kick-off” for the community locally.
It doesn’t need to be a big, grandiose event, it might just be a catch-up at a local coffee shop to talk about what sort of activities people enjoy. Just as long as it clearly communicates to everyone around that things are finally going to happen, and it would be great for them to be involved.
Watch the video below for some ideas about how to create a kick-off activity for your local community:
The Second Month
4. Reach out to local members
As soon as you start posting Suggestions and Activities, Stitch will notify members in the local area about those events.
We often find, however, that members who live in an area that isn’t active yet don’t always read the automated notifications sent out by Stitch. We’ve seen that Community Champions who spend a bit of time reaching out to local members — particularly once they post a kickoff activity — are much more successful than those who don’t.
Stitch gives you a few ways to make it easier to invite members along to your event — watch the video below to find out!
5. Create a recurring monthly activity
One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that new members often need to receive an invitation to an event several times before they finally overcome their inertia and come along.
The first time they see an activity advertised, they’ll think “that sounds interesting”, but either are already committed on that date or simply aren’t ready to go and meet strangers yet.
The second time they see the same activity advertised, they’ll think “oh, it’s happening again, I guess it must have been good the first time around”. They might even post a comment on the event. But they’ll still often feel reluctant about attending.
The third time they see the activity, they start thinking “wow, this Stitch thing is really real”, and deciding that yes, maybe next time, they’ll try to clear their schedule and make time to come.
And then the fourth time they get invited, they might actually come along.
This scenario is no exaggeration; it might actually take a dozen activity postings before someone decides to attend one.
What does this mean?
It means the very best thing you can do when your community is in its infancy is to organize a regular monthly activity.
After you’ve had your first kickoff event and met a couple of local members, it’s time to start setting up a regular monthly event.
Once again, it doesn’t need to be anything elaborate — it will still be a while before you get many people coming along — it just needs to be something you keep on doing.
Choose a suitable location. Pick a regular day, such as the fourth Thursday of the month. And then just keep on posting!
Watch the video below for a guide to creating a recurring monthly activity for your area.
6. Create extra activities as needed
Most Community Champions didn’t join Stitch just to go to a single monthly get-together. They have hundreds of activities they’d like to do with other Stitchers!
The good news is that you don’t need to restrict yourself to a single activity per month, particularly if you are getting interest from other members in their suggestions.
You should feel free to suggest or organize additional activities to your heart’s content.
Walks, movie nights, dinners, wine tastings, road trips, theater — if it’s something you enjoy, you should go for it. Being a member of Stitch is meant to be fun, after all!
The Third Month and Beyond
7. Encourage other members to suggest and organize
By this stage, we would hope that you will have developed at least a small number of social connections with other members in your area, and started to develop an embryonic community. Even if it’s only a handful of people, you're making progress!
One indicator of community health is when multiple members start posting activities, rather than relying on a single Community Champion to do it all.
As most organizers know, one of the most rewarding things about Stitch is being able to make a positive impact on the lives of other members, so it’s a great achievement when you help some of your new local Stitch buddies to start suggesting or organizing activities.
Most of them won’t initially think of themselves as organizers; “I’m not the organizer type” is something we frequently hear from new members. But once they’re shown how easy it is, and how rewarding it can be, many of them go on to tell us that this is what made Stitch life-changing for them.
Debbie, one of our Stitch Champions in Phoenix, Arizona, actually made it her mission to help the members in her local area all reach Diamond Status, going so far as to print them badges when they achieved that goal — with her helping along the way. You can read about Debbie’s story here.
Or watch this interview with Kim B from California, who (by her own admission) felt very shy when she first joined Stitch, but grew to become one of our most prolific organizers. Kim does an amazing job explaining how much of a positive impact this made on her confidence and wellbeing.
You can make this same positive impact each time you help a member in their area gain the confidence to post, suggest, and organize activities for their local area.
8. Turn on your Welcomer settings
The Stitch Welcoming program is an initiative intended to help new members feel welcome when they first join. Here is a video that helps explain the background behind the program and how works:
You can read more about the Welcoming Program here.
If you are a new member, you won’t qualify for the Welcoming Program yet. But once you've been a member more than 6 months, and have achieved a positive member rating, the Stitch system will invite you to turn on their Welcomer Settings.
We would encourage anyone who wants to activate the community in their area to turn on their Welcomer Settings. The Welcoming program will prioritize sending welcome messages to new members in your local area, so it’s a great way to welcome new members without needing to manually send messages from the Members page.
9. Keep on going! (and going, and going...)
The final step in the community-building journey is the most important one of all: persistence.
In some ways, this echoes the philosophy of Stitch itself.
The road to where the Stitch Community is today has involved many challenges and sacrifices, and an enormous amount of hard work. While we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, we are well aware that it’s only a tiny fraction of our grand vision for the community as one which enriches the lives of its members in every neighborhood in every city in the world.
We know, however, that the only thing that can prevent us from achieving that vision is if we give up.
As long as we keep the Community going — and we never, ever, ever give up — we know we’ll get there. And we’ll get there together.
The same applies to every single member trying to start the community in their local area. It might not happen overnight, but as long as you stick with it and don’t give up, it will happen.
The final video in this guide, then, is on the importance of persistence:
Remember, you are not alone
Finally, remember that you are not alone. If you want to help grow the community in your area, there are plenty of people willing to help.
The Stitch Pioneer Program is designed to provide support and encouragement to any member who is seeking to grow the community in their area. The Pioneer Program is powered by Mentors who have already contributed to the community in a variety of ways, and would like to contribute to helping other members.
You can learn more about the Pioneer Program here. If you like the sound of being part of the program, we'd love you to register.
We've all got the same goal, which is to make the Stitch community great for all our members, no matter where they live.
Now that's an exciting thought, isn't it?