6 tips to build a strong community

Results from the MakeSense Amsterdam workshop 

MakeSense Workshop
MakeSense Workshop

During the MakeSense Camp in Amsterdam last week, I gave a workshop about how to build a loyal community. During the session, I shared my insights on how we (the GreenBuzz team) have built the network GreenBuzz Amsterdam. But more importantly, I was looking for insights from others, since sometimes we also struggle with this issue. So far our main activity has been organizing network activities, therefore the assignment  during the workshop was: describe a network event where you want to come back to several times a year. I have summarized the outcomes in 6 tips in community building. Before I start, I will give a short background of  GreenBuzz Amsterdam:


cropped-favicon_GB.jpgGreenBuzz Amsterdam had its first network event in November 2016, organized by me (Fenna) and Roel Stijl. We are part of an international network organization, GreenBuzz Global. Other local networks are: GreenBuzz Zurich, Berlin, Geneva and Bern. In every city people can start a GreenBuzz chapter, although there are some conditions. (Read more on getting involved here!) Every so called local chapter has its own characteristics, but we all have the same goal: empowering professionals to make businesses more sustainable. This we do mainly via community building: we want to help professionals by giving them motivation, inspiration and valuable contacts.

Looking back on the last year, I am really proud on where we are now: with 5 network events, 2 brainstorm dinners and a community of more than 200 professionals, we have reached more than we expected. Moreover, our team has expanded! We now have a board of 3 people: Fenna Plaisier (Chair), Roel Stijl (Finance) and Willem Spigt (Fundings), and 6 team members: Laurie Kos, Splinter Dreesmann, Ligia Falcao Alencar, Jakub Bodgan, Arne Mombers and Jolien van der Vaart!


What are the ingredients that make people want to come back? And what are the pitfalls?

1. Spark interest and ideas

Inspiring talk from Ieva Punyte
Inspiring talk from Ieva Punyte

During an event people should go home full of new ideas, inspiration and motivation! It is really important for people that they can identify themselves with the key figures who are changing the way business is done.  This is something we have learned last year.

In the beginning we focused on a sustainable company rather than a human being. Of course it can be interesting to hear what a company has achieved, but can you always relate to this? We found out that it is much better to let professionals talk about their personal experiences in setting up a company or changing a company from within. These personal experiences are something everyone can relate to and what inspire and motivate others.


2. Always remember the goal of your activity

IMG_0983If you want to build a community, remember that connecting  with others should be central during your activity. Sounds very simple, but in many occasions it is overlooked. Both the format and the way you organize the space, are important. Often so called “network” events have a plenary format with long presentations and people sitting in chairs.  The chance that participants meet other people is small.

Instead, GreenBuzz always puts networking and impact central and we have made this our unique selling point. Our network events exist of short pitches, challenges in group settings and impact rounds. The structure allows for meeting new people, sharing your insights and learning from others.

3. Quality is not for free

Our first network event was for free, which was in my opinion a big mistake. Why? First of all because of the commitment from both sides. We had 100 people that registered for our free event, but only 30% showed up. For our first event, having 30 participants was fine, since it allowed us to experiment with the format. However, if it is commitment and quality that you are looking for, you make them pay. It is very simple; make sure your activity is worth the price. We never had people complaining about the entrance fee, because we work hard to make sure every moment is valuable. Every penny is invested in our community, therefore paid activities makes the community stronger.

4. Be where you want to make a change

Many of the participants of the Make Sense workshop group indicated that they would come back to an event if the location was interesting. This was an unique insight for me and I had never thought of this. But of course it makes sense: locations are often connected with a certain goal. For example: our last and upcoming event on 24 January 2018, was and will be in the ABN AMRO’s circular pavilion called CIRCL.  This is important to us, since the pavilion is circular and it is located in the “Zuidas”,  the business district of Amsterdam. There is no better location to start changing businesses, than from the heart of the business centre.

5. Make people curious

IMG_2060Again, this was an insight I wasn’t aware of. Preparing people for the next activity is what we at GreenBuzz often fail(ed) to do. The best way to get people involved, is a) giving them a reason to come back (more about this in the next point) and b) a sneak preview of the upcoming activity. Make them already curious and engaged in your next activity. Grab the momentum: during your event, make sure to engage your community in upcoming activities. Because you will have their full attention and dedication on this moment.


6. Find the needs & interests of people

Last but not least: talk with and listen to your community! I have heard and seen this tip often, but somehow it is hard to make it a priority. You need to know who is active in your community and what makes them tick. We started to do this via a short survey during the event, where people could answer to questions via their mobile phone.

A bonus tip:  Who you are is who you get

I have mentioned it earlier: the GreenBuzz team is the core of our success. Because of the knowledge, skills and energy every team member puts in the organization (in their free time!). But also because they practice what they preach. Everyone in his or her way, tries to make businesses change in becoming more sustainable. This makes them the best ambassadors of our network and this is exactly what a community needs.


Do you want to get involved? Come to our next event on 24 January and like us on Facebook to get regular updates.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwXSfGVlI34&w=560&h=315]


Voor GB websiteFenna Plaisier is chairman of GreenBuzz Amsterdam. She started GreenBuzz Amsterdam in October 2016 together with Roel Stijl. 

Interested in joining the GreenBuzz Amsterdam team or do you have other questions? Please send an email to: amsterdam@greenbuzz.global


6 tips to build a strong community