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Stories from the web: How do I improve OUR community?

Note: I’m cross-posting this from the South Florida Tech Leadership group. We’re a group of leaders in South Florida who are passionate about improving the tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem in our region. If you’re interested in joining in on the conversation, just drop in or introduce yourself on twitter.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a bunch of inspiring blog posts with different angles on building your local community. I wanted to share summaries and links with you. In particular, the one below about giving back through workshops spoke particularly to me as I prepare the next version of an Arduino workshop. I plan on following up on that one as it focuses a lot on personal benefits and glosses over the community-building side (which are significant).

Has anyone else read any interesting blog posts, articles or experiences about community-building?

David Cohen, Founder of TechStars in Boulder, shared some great resources with local San Diego entrepreneurs. Here are the two items that spoke most to me:

We discussed the idea of a “high quality focal point.” – This is the notion that you need something in your community that engages everyone deeply across the spectrum of first time entrepreneurs, more experienced entrepreneurs, service providers, angels, venture capitalists, students, etc. They have to have something “real” to do together. TechStars provides this for the communities that we’re in. But it can be anything, as long as it drives real activity and energy together and it’s something that’s not shallow.

Perhaps something like Miami Tech Week could be this focal point, but it’s only once a year and doesn’t have NEARLY the support that I would expect an entire community could provide. He also suggests having highly visible entry-points into the community:

Finally, I said that a community needs visible entry points. Boulder’s new tech meetup boulder.me web sites are great examples. I love the “ambassadors” part of Boulder.me. Look at the entrepreneurial leaders who have stuck their hand up to say “I’ll show you around here.”

 A few attempts at this have been made but nothing that everyone can agree on using. But even more importantly than this, who would spend a day with someone new to the community to “show them the ropes” and get them connected. Met a guy in Boulder that I knew on Twitter and was blown away by the amount of time he invested with me. South Florida needs better resources to direct people new to our area to our ambassadors.

Read more: http://www.davidgcohen.com/2012/01/27/san-diego-and-entrepreneurial-communities/

Richard Powell describes how workshops are a useful part of the community ecosystem and offers some suggestions to make your event successful. You don’t need to be established and successful to grow our community:

David Haywood Smith recently wrote about the golden age of the developer and how every developer should give back. I agree. Sharing our skills is an essential part of being a creative person. It enriches the ecosystem we work in, raises our profiles and it connects us with like-minded people. […] I’m going to use my own experience running two workshops to tell you a story. It’s a story that I hope will motivate you to run your own workshop. I’ll cover the lessons I’ve learnt and I’ll explain how and why you should run a workshop.

Read more: http://www.kernelmag.com/scene/1495/giving-back-the-workshop-way/

Nathan Bashaw, a designer and front-end developer at Olark, contrasts an area that’s very similar to ours (his hometown in Michigan) and his new live in the valley. He offers some of this thoughts as they reflect off of Paul Grahams recent essay on Startup Hubs:

A couple weeks ago, Paul Graham posted an essay called “Why Startup Hubs Work”. It explains the disproportionate number of successful startups in the valley as being the result of 1) it being cool to start a startup there, and 2) the frequency of chance encounters with people who can be useful to you. […] But most of us failed because we didn’t know anyone who had done it before that could mentor us, invest in us, or co-found the companies with us. […] The key is to know why you want to start a startup [in Silicon Valley]. If it’s mere convenience, then I think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons (and you’ll eventually leave or fail).

Read more: http://www.growdetroit.com/why-chance-encounters-work/

And lastly, this morning I caught a new initiative that Jason Baptiste, a South Florida native and founder of OnSwipe, is putting to work in his company. He’s partnered with some big names and urges community growth through an internship program called “Summer QAmp”. Check it out:

We’re moving from a world shaped by the industrial economy where we grow up thinking about becoming bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc. Today’s world and going forward is being shaped by an information economy. The skills needed to succeed in this new world are way different than that of even ten years ago. Summer QAmp has a chance to be a beacon of light that will let underprivileged youth have a shot at being prepared for this new world.

Read more: http://blog.onswipe.com/news/3-reasons-why-every-startup-should-bring-on-a-qa-intern-through-summer-qamp