Community Sustains Movements: 3 Tips on Building Tiny Versions Of It

A few days ago I came across Douglas Atkin’s talk on “Building Movements through Action” from CMX Summit East. Atkin is the Global Director of Community at Airbnb and his story really resonated with me - advertising agency guy thrown into community organizing and technology - because it’s similar to mine.


(Pictured above: Job jackets for various clients and projects, each representing a specific "job" the ad agency is working on. I started out in the accounts department of the advertising world.)

Not only that, but Airbnb’s approach to community building as a core part of business and growth aligns with NationBuilder closely. I even had the pleasure of training some of the Airbnb Barcelona organizers on how to use our tools for their campaigns targeting hosts and small business owners 

In his talk, Douglas highlights personal experiences in building global movements that have inspired millions to take one or a series of collective actions - mad respect for Atkins because doing so is pretty damn hard.

Anyway, this idea of global movements by thousands made me think about the opposite end of the community spectrum - the very personal, local, and immediate feeling of belonging.

The two are deeply connected - the million-strong movement is made possible by countless tiny, personal exchanges that create community along the way.  

Having moved around a lot, I’ve had to become a pro at finding a sense of micro-community and multiplying the types of tiny, short-term exchanges that make us feel like we belong.

So, as a way of telling parts of my story and hopefully help others build community, I’d like to share three ways to build micro-community for yourself:

Indulge in interests. Instead of another happy hour, go check out that yoga studio by your house or go to that community workout in the park on Saturday. You and the people around you have at least that one thing in common - whatever activity you’re doing. Use it as  starting point.

(Pictured above: Instagram post from my 1st visit to a yoga studio in Jacksonville, FL. Most studios or centers offer a free class. Great way to meet like-minded people.)

Be the organizer. Pick a time, place, and invite people. Even better, ask them to bring someone. Next thing you know you have a weekly volleyball game after work, a monthly bike-ride, and a growing group of friends.

(Pictured above: Social media post by Nick Cicero - friend and past coworker - during our weekly volleyball games in Daytona Beach. We both worked for Benedict Advertising at the time.)

Do some good. By volunteering and sitting on boards you not only network but also embrace the leader in you. And community organically builds around leaders.

In short, sparking more small, personal moments of belonging can be the fuel of powerful, influential, people-driven movements. It’s on all of us to do it for ourselves and for each other.

Don’t be scared to be the person who brings the community together. Feel free to contact me at or on Twitter at @JuanSVas to share how you’ve gone about creating your own sense of community.

Atkin’s talk is below, I highly encourage you to grab a snack and to dive in.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.