​Creating a sense of Community online

Published on
October 11, 2020
Time to read: 
A woman working on her laptop, wearing bright yellow headphones and glasses, smiling at her screen.
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

I love learning!  Every week, sometimes every day, I have the opportunity to learn something new. I’m grateful for every new thing I learn, whether it’s something as simple as how to create polls in my offspring’s high school online communication platform (it’s ridiculously easy) or as complex as learning how to write a relatable, meaningful and marketable book.

In 2007, I joined my two primary professional associations, the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) and the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International). When I became a veteran in 2012, and started my own business, the local groups for these professional associations, HRPA Quinte & District Chapter and the BPW Trenton & District Club helped me transition to life as a civilian. The members of these two groups shared advice, cheered me on, and were happy to point me in the direction of learning opportunities. They even occasionally referred clients to me! I felt a sense of community. With more time on my hands, I volunteered for leadership roles at the local level and beyond.

One of the benefits of living through a pandemic is that I now feel more connected to BPW members in Canada and around the world. Since one of the reasons I chose to become a veteran when I did was to be more present in my offspring’s lives as they navigated the complexities of growing up. I concentrated most of my energy on local and online projects. In 2018, I attended the BPW Ontario Conference and the BPW Canada Convention and AGM. It was interesting to meet new people and to learn how things worked at the higher levels of BPW in Canada. I even had the honour of meeting some international BPW sisters, including Neelima Basnet from Nepal, the Young BPW International Vice President. Neelima and many others honoured me by accepting LinkedIn and Facebook friend invitations.  Then I went home and focused on local issues again.

Earlier this year, I saw a post Neelima shared about Intergenerational Dialogue. I learned that on the first Wednesday of every month, Neelima and Dr. Anne Hilty co-hosted an International webinar for BPW members to encourage conversations about BPW across the generations. I soon learned that there was also a Leadership in BPW International webinar held the second Wednesday of each month. I started attending both, as often as I could. I was honoured to be invited to participate in a panel on Mentorship with two members of BPW Hong Kong this spring.

As the year progressed Anne, with assistance from many other BPW sisters around the world, organized two more series, the Leadership and the Future of BPW International working group, and the #BPWGoesDigital series that features Young BPW members from around the world sharing their knowledge of online platforms and how we, as BPW members could choose to use these platforms to create a greater sense of community online.

In an interesting juxtaposition of generations, in the Mentoring panel webinar, two young BPW members talked about face to face mentoring programs, while I presented the MentorCity platform.  I’ve been using MentorCity with HRPA for several years. I’m such a “vocal” fan, that this year I was hired to deliver training to MentorCity clients (in large part because I’m fluently bilingual and can present materials in French).

I'm loving the opportunity to network online, virtually with people from around the world. In the case of BPW, I feel more connected now, than I did pre-pandemic. I know that many other people from all generations are also enjoying the opportunity to connect virtually.

There are so many free online platforms that can be leveraged to build community. For example, LinkedIn (recommended during the September 2020 BPW Intergenerational Dialogue session as the platform of choice for professional networking) has the capability to form groups. BPW International, BPW Canada, and other levels of BPW could choose to form groups, where their members can share opportunities, challenges and engage in asynchronous dialogue about things that matter to them. Group permissions can be set, so that the Manager and Administrators must approve all requests to join, or it can be open, there are many options!

If enough BPW clubs were interested, the provincial, country, regional or international level could invest in an online platform like MentorCity (Canadian!) to get a turn key online platform that allows our members to connect with mentors/mentees from anywhere in the world. (There are non-profit pricing models, and at least one other women’s group has done this.)

If there was sufficient appetite BPW could invest in a platform like Mighty Networks, an incredibly flexible platform that includes a variety of useful community building services. Building a sense of community through an online platform is their business model! It works!!!

To create a sense of community online, as in real life, people must choose to invest their time and effort by sharing their thoughts, encouraging others, and participating in some form of dialogue. We all have so much to learn from each other. We can support each other, with a few words of encouragement, or even with something as simple as a “like” or “share.”

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please let me and others know!  Like, share, comment etc.

If you didn’t like it, or don’t agree, please tell me why. I can learn from you!