Blog » Member Engagement: Overview

Member Engagement: Overview

Created Mar 30 2021, 4:51 PM by Communities Reinvented
  • Member Engagement


  • Member Engagement is an umbrella term for anything and everything you do within your Community to engage the Community’s members, facilitate relationships, and build a sense of community
  • Having an active Community is functional to furthering the Community’s goals, and being intentional about increasing Member Engagement is necessary in order to have an active community
  • When designing any kind of community activity, you need to think on three levels: strategic, design and execution 


What is Member Engagement?

Member Engagement is at the core of any community building effort. Put simply, it is an umbrella term for anything and everything you do within your community to engage your members, facilitate relationships, and build a sense of community. Most frequently, member engagement refers to specific events or activities you organize for your community, such as a peer learning event, a workshop, an online discussion, etc. 

Why is Member Engagement important? 

Building a Community of Practice is about connecting people. Members gain value from interacting with and learning from one another, which is one of the main reasons for them to join a community. Additionally, any specific goals you might have set for your Community of Practice ultimately depend on whether its members are engaged. In other words, having an active community is functional to furthering the Community’s goals, and being intentional about increasing Member Engagement is necessary in order to have an active community. Engaging your members on a regular basis can lead to meaningful interactions and exchange of knowledge, perspectives, resources, and support. Greater engagement helps deepen relationships, build trust between members, and build community spirit.

How do you create and run an engaging Community? 

Think of member engagement on three levels: 

  • Strategic level: the purpose of the activity and the members you wish to engage

  • Design level: with the purpose and members in mind, how do you design the activity itself 

  • Execution level: now that you have thought through the design, what are the necessary logistical steps you need to take to run a successful community activity. 

Strategic Level: 

Think about the overall purpose and your members.

Purpose: this may seem very basic, yet it is common to have a misalignment between an activity’s stated objective and how it is actually run. There is the ‘expressed’ purpose and a deeper, unconscious purpose. For example, community managers may say “we want to bring people together to talk about this issue”. That is the expressed purpose, but it is easier said than done. A common mistake would be to organize a panel where 2-3 people have a conversation, while the vast majority of the audience is left out of the conversation. In this case, the expressed purpose does not align with how the event is run. 

Suggestion: when designing activities for your Community, focus on the deeper purpose of engaging members and design activities in a way that makes it possible to achieve that purpose. For example, if the strategic purpose of an activity is to provide a mechanism for peer support, you will need to design the activity in a way that allows members 1) to formulate and voice their challenges, and 2) to follow up and provide support when they are able to.

Members: each Community activity has its own target audience. When designing an activity, ask yourself: who is the target audience for the specific activity? Is it the entire Community, or maybe a specific Segment of it? Once you have identified the target audience for the activity, empathize with them: what is a burning need they have? What urgent problem are they trying to solve? Design your Community’s activities with and around the members who will undertake such activities.

Purpose + member needs: Having a clearer idea about an activity’s purpose and its intended audience, it is useful to validate the alignment between these two elements. Is the purpose of an activity aligned to what members (or a segment of members) need? If not, what do you need to do to create that alignment? To put it simply, your primary goal in organizing community activities is to meet the needs of your members. If an activity doesn’t meet the needs of members, they simply won’t participate or engage.

Design Level: 

Some activities are designed purely for members to interact and learn from one another. Others may have a “presentation” component where an expert or a group of experts share a piece of their expertise on a given topic that’s relevant to the community. Regardless of your purpose, you should design any community activity with these two principles in mind. 

Give everyone a voice: if everyone feels invited to speak and contribute, they’ll feel more included, more connected. So, for any community activity, no matter big or small, think about the following questions: 

  • How do you express to participants that they matter?

  • How do you express that you care about them and their contributions? 

For an event with a small audience - how do you create as much time as possible for small group conversations? 

For an event with a larger audience - what kind of tools and techniques could you use to give everyone a voice, even if you can’t create time for everyone to physically speak? 

Test, measure, iterate: nobody gets it perfect the first time, or really any time. The goal is to continuously learn and refine, based on what your members tell you and your own goals and success indicators.  

  • Feedback: ask community members how they liked the community activity, using a + / delta (or any other simple tool) where they share plusses (“what went well”) and deltas (“what could be even better if”) 

  • Success indicators: once you have a clear purpose, ask yourself “what does success look like?” What are some tangible outcomes you’d like to see and then evaluate the activity accordingly. Reflect and make changes next time. 

Execution Level: 

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. For a given community activity to be truly great, there’s a lot of work that needs to happen before, during and after. Refer to Planning a Community Event for a list of action steps.


This article is part of the WBG Communities of Practice Toolkit licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The toolkit features practical resources to help you develop impactful Communities of Practice. 📖 Learn more about the Toolkit.  ▶ Access the Toolkit.