Online community roles: 2. the community facilitator

The core principle of The Cohesion Model for Sustainable Online Communities and Social Networks (as described in my previous post on 13th November) is that there are effectively three levels within a community – the Public, the Community or Collaborative, and the Private or Individual level.  There is a role associated with each of these and we have defined the tasks associated with each role.  In the first post in this series I described the role of the Community Editor.

The model is necessarily refined and improved with each community that we run, and nowhere is that more relevant than in the second of the key roles, that of the Community Facilitator.  This role has many names, and indeed may vary depending on the context: it may be called the Community Manager, the Community Moderator, the E-moderator or the Community Lead. For example, there may be organisational reasons why the title Manager is not appropriate, or in FE Colleges the word Moderator is not used because it has a completely different meaning. Whichever job title you use, the Community Facilitator is a key role, and I could not begin to describe all the tasks involved in a single blog post (I teach full courses on how to undertake the role).

Often those who set up communities with little experience underestimate the time and resources that this role requires. Yet without it, a community is doomed to failure.

Some of the tasks of this role are:

  • listening to the community (as for the Community Editor role)
  • welcoming new members
  • facilitating discussions and interactions
  • avoiding or dealing with problems
  • setting and maintaining the tone
  • monitoring and modelling good behaviour
  • responding to queries
  • giving information and signposting sources of information elsewhere
  • representing the owner(s) and stakeholders of the community to the members and vice versa, as appropriate
  • planning community events, online and offline
  • providing learning opportunities and resources (because all communities of practice are learning communities to a greater or lesser extent even if that is not their main raison d’etre)

As with the Community Editor, this role may be split between several people, for example, some may set policies and deal with any problems while others take part iin the community being helpful and facilitating interaction. The roles of course overlap somewhat, especially when dealing with content that necessarily moves between the levels, for example when a collaborative group within the community produce a presentation or article to be shared outside the community, or a piece of public content is use to spark a community discussion.

In the next post in this series I’ll look at the tasks for the third domain of online community – the Private or Individual level.

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