In my last post I covered the first  steps I took to re-launch the IAMCP Seattle chapter. These included building a core team, working with IAMCP leadership to figure out what was needed to reestablish a group, and reaching out to Microsoft for help in moving things forward. For those who may be interested in building out a chapter in their own region, or working with an existing chapter to expand, the back story may be even more interesting.

 
But first, some thoughts on building communities:
 
Throughout my career, I’ve had opportunities to help develop communities of various scopes and sizes, from user groups to huge technology events. One thing that has been key to success in every long lasting community I’ve come across is identifying (and giving support to) leadership.
 
This applies whether building a MeetUp group around a shared interest, a technical Special Interest Group, or a one-time charity event. Nothing happens without one or more leaders stepping up to the task. They are the sparks that set things in motion.
 
It sounds simple enough. But if it was as simple as people calling themselves ”Leaders” (with a big L) and not actually leading (with a little l), we’d see much more participation in the IAMCP community. We have plenty of folks interested in being involved, but fewer have the passion (and bandwidth) to take action.  There are almost 650,000 partners in the Microsoft ecosystem, yet only a tiny fraction is involved in IAMCP. We need to constantly look for and build up future leaders.
 
To start something anew — and to grow your chapter — requires one or more leaders, plus an organizing committee, and then a strong membership.
 
Leaders start, organizers build, attendees participate and consume. Lose your leaders, and your organization will dissipate. It happened in Seattle, when the founding team moved away and nobody stepped up to take charge and lead the group to its next phase. Unless someone assumes the leadership mantle, no community will last. And you can have multiple leaders. Leadership does not equal control, but is more about committing to drive the process forward. At the end of the day, someone should feel accountable for what happens to the chapter.
 
This is not a static process. We are all constantly looking for leaders, connectors, and other community-minded people. Every community leadership team should have a succession plan. The idea is to help the community organize, develop stable, consistent and repeatable procedures. Show others how to lead.
 
It’s always easier to start something than to maintain it, yet in my experience most people fear those first steps. I understand that most people fear the impact to workload. But I also believe most fail to recognize that the benefits of participating in something like IAMCP far outweigh the burdens. A big part of my role with the Seattle chapter is to help people get past the fear and risk of taking those first steps.
 
I have a lot of practice in being an instigator. I co-founded a technology-focused non-profit back in 2002 and led membership efforts for several years. When I left we had around 10,000 members on our rolls. In that experience, I was able to launch and run several user groups that met monthly, helped merge some other existing groups, and organize events that ranged in size from 25 to over 1,000. I am comfortable with the role of instigator.
 
Back to the Seattle IAMCP chapter’s story: When we started actually trying to move things forward, our first stop was to reach out to Microsoft. Our contacts, frankly, had been burned by people who were ultimately unable to commit to the leadership task. Microsoft wanted to know that we were serious, and that we had a solid team in place. We quickly realized we needed to find more people willing to share the leadership mantle.
 
We organized a couple conference calls with limited success. Then we put together a meet-and-greet at a local Redmond restaurant, which brought in a few new faces (free food often does). Over the next few weeks, we were able to slowly build a list of folks, many of whom we had not yet met in person, who offered to lend their support.
 
We were also able to make some great connections into IAMCP, working with the newly installed Western Regional Chair of IAMCP-US, Justin Slagle, who had helped grow the Southern California chapter to one of the largest (if not the largest) in the country (soon to be eclipsed by Seattle).
 
Once we had a quorum, we held a formal face-to-face planning meeting on the Microsoft campus. We outlined specific areas of focus and allowed people to sign up for as much as they were able to do. A philosophy we established early made all the difference: create a big tent. Let people contribute. Spread out the workload. And as we talked and identified the various areas that we knew we would need to cover, and the questions that needed to be addressed, a miraculous thing happened: people took ownership.
 
In my next post, I’ll walk through the forming of the board of directors, and related committees.​