On Caretaking our Members, Spaces and Experiences on COSMOS: The Community Guide Role

Wikipedia defines a guild as “an association of artisans or merchants who control the practice of their craft in a particular town.” Guilds were notorious for maintaining artistic and production standards, while also providing essential mentor and apprentice relationships among artisans, effecting a mix of talent and skill levels in a community unified by practice of an art or craft.

The world of permaculture takes the idea of a guild further, using the term “plant guild” to describe a set of plant species that tend to thrive harmonically when grown together (because they fill different niches in a given ecosystem). This image has served as the model for human “permaculture guilds” all over the world, in which permaculturists, with various skills and strengths, come together to learn from one another and grow holistically.

As Cosmos has developed, we have drawn inspiration from a spectrum of different models of organization. To name a few: intentional communities, guilds, academies, salons, makerspaces, trade associations, unions, and so on. As a cooperative we aim to be a rhapsodic hub/hive centered on meeting for our members’ social, cultural and economic needs, and thus we embody aspects of a producer’s co-op, a consumer’s co-op, AND a worker’s co-op. But at our heart, we are very much a co-op, which means we participate equitably to build collaborative systems of mutual benefit. For a co-op to be functional, it must provide its members with ongoing education and training (and enculturation, since we don’t all come into a co-op knowing how to be good cooperators, by any means), which on a day-to-day basis, typically means those with knowledge coach and mentor those who are new to the process.

I think of Cosmos as a guild of visionaries who come together in community to make one another stronger through dialogue, collaboration, and advocacy (sponsorship). “As sword sharpens sword,” participating in a community of brilliant people who genuinely see you, engage with and support your work, and importantly, endure for you in a process of mutual development, is paramount to becoming a more fully realized human being.

Central to achieving this purpose are the protocols for how we relate to one another. What rules of engagement should we set for our collective endeavor, to optimize for our desired outcomes?

The community guide role is a distinctive quality and feature of participation in Cosmos. Most of us have probably had the experience of meeting an “ambassador” to Cosmos–and that person, in all honest likelihood, was @madrush Marco V Morelli. :wink: Marco has this splendid quality of being naturally interested in other people’s creative outputs, and deeply wanting to gather and immerse among a cohort of truly gifted creatives. This urge, on the personal scale, has emerged into the macro expression that is called the Cosmos community. To come together, to celebrate one another, to enhance and amplify one another’s slice of genius–this is, definitively, an empowering process, and it’s that magical essence behind why we love showing up in these spaces.

As we formally offer and open up membership into Cosmos, we’d like to appeal to the whole of the active Cosmos community to step into the volunteer role we are calling “community guide”–but you might like to think of as “ambassador,” “companion,” “steward,” “usher,” etc. Essentially, the role of community guide involves current members extending warm welcomes and offering to orient new members to the Cosmos spaces and conversations. As we throw open the gates to our work-in-progress, weird-and-wonderful virtual amusement park, who will be there, right at the entrance, ready to welcome and support new players?

We’d like to invite you to “be the presence” that creates a warm, welcoming experience for new members–immediately setting the tone for how we treat one another in Cosmos. We’d like to encourage ourselves to strive for this goal: that no new member come into Cosmos without a community guide designated to offer them a friendly hand and take them on a proverbial “walkabout.”

To that end we are forming a Welcoming Committee, open to any existing & active member to join, where we will be processing incoming “new member applications” by engaging those individuals in conversations about their passions, abilities, talents, and interests, and guiding them toward their “best-fit” options for engaging. A community guide might recommend: joining a particular conversation underway, hanging out in a particular channel, joining a working group that is helping build out Cosmos, meeting (via introductions) a particular like-minded/like-oriented fellow member, and/or creating one’s own thread, such as posting creative work in the Creative Studio. The guide is there to help the new guest feel situated and at ease, like a friend welcoming you to a party full of strangers.

Here’s how it will work:

  • On Infinite Conversations, we’ve created a Welcoming Committee group. Current members can join the Welcoming Committee by clicking the “Request to Join Group” button.
  • When a new member joins Cosmos, a notification is sent to the Welcoming Committee.
  • Anyone of us can “claim” a member to respond to (like “tickets” in online customer service): simply send a message that new member through the forum, using a template (in production–ready soon), customized to the individual.
    _ Note: these process are still in development._*

The goal of the Community Guide relationship for our new members is that the new member feels 1) that they have an ally with whom they can speak about anything at any time, 2) that they feel more oriented to the spaces and conversations & thus more comfortable participating. The goal for our Community Guide volunteers is that this be light but personable. Therefore we encourage Welcoming Committee members to connect on personal mutual interests or intrigue in their work and personalities. In a nutshell: make some new friends! :slight_smile:

Now, of course, not every new member will need heavy onboarding and coaching before getting started–however, at the very least, through this step we embody/demonstrate our ethic of mutual interest and support, setting the tone for their experiences in Cosmos spaces.

Community Guides should feel comfortable in the existing standards and spaces that make up Cosmos. They should be familiar with the purposes of different spaces and what conversations and projects are happening now in Cosmos.* The rewards of this role are reflexive, reciprocal–a well-adjusted community will generate coherent, vibrant conversational spaces, fresh collaborations, critical ideas… and as people feel more comfortable, they themselves may step into the community guide role for the “next generation” of members, and so on and so forth. (The “pay it forward” principle–a kindness multiplier effect… i.e. Cosmos just gets awesomer.)

The Community Guide role is just one type of role (in the overall picture of ways to participate in Cosmos–much of which is yet to be built-out) in which we as a community strive to serve as one another’s mentors, advocates, sponsors/patrons, allies, celebrators… or, more inclusively and for those with a taste for gardening imagery, cultivators. Our overall directive is to elicit the gem of genius shining within one another, producing better writers, artists, thinkers, and people, in and through the process of generating outstanding works.

In this way, we bake a specific culture and code of conduct into our interactions from the very beginning. This is how we build a holistic community where our values are embodied at every level, as much as possible. The effect of this is integrating all the different precious voices in the Cosmos as though we are weaving a symphony. The effect is humanizing our spaces and explicitly intending to make one another feel seen, appreciated, and welcomed. Finally, the stronger, clearer and more vital our culture is, the more resilient we will be to adverse forces–i.e. Intentional action is how we inoculate against trolling, derailing, grandstanding, and other such undesirable (even–wait for it–viral!) outcomes in our spaces. Because: the culture we desire is not a spectator sport: it must be made. And who better to create culture than… a roomful of cultural creatives, eh? :sparkler::heart_eyes:

Through our community-curated protocols, we set ourselves apart from other social media spaces and online communities out there. Let’s make Cosmos an exceptional virtual community.

Your active participation is requested! To serve as a community guide, simply submit a request to join the Welcoming Committee, and we’ll see you soon!

*Now, we recognize that Cosmos’ spaces and conversations are in a kind of ever-evolving state… we are in the process of building a “map” of all the ways a member can be active in Cosmos, but the map will continually evolve too! The bottom line is: if you feel like you have “gotten the hang” of our forum, and you are enjoying using it, please consider stepping up as a volunteer community guide. Even if you only help one member get going, you will be making an impact in our community.

Thank you!