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Networks need a support team to coordinate, motivate, and carry the ball for busy people. For some networks the support team is made up of paid staff working as a secretariat. For others it is informal and volunteer-based. Support team roles can include:

Leaders — People with the power to convene and the charisma to rally members around a common vision.
Managers — People responsible for overall administration and coordination. Managers develop and implement work plans, maintain information systems, and create and monitor feedback loops to track the health of the network.
Facilitators — Focusing on participation and engagement, facilitators pay attention collaborative processes and advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures. They moderate interactions and help network members know and understand each other, make decisions, and achieve consensus. (More below.)
Communicators — Those responsible for promoting the network and managing relationships with those publics upon whom the network’s success depends.
Social butterflies — Individuals who circulate informally among network members, reducing conflict, negotiating differences, and helping generate collective emotion. Independent, confident, and able to tolerate uncertainty, social butterflies can impact information flows and network health. (Not a formal role, and may not even be carried out by a support team member. Can be an enthusiastic member or supporter.)

People on the network support team may play one or more of these roles. While specific people may be responsible for communications tasks, everyone on the support team promotes the project and shares their passion and by contributing to the stream of conversations and content.

For networks with online communities, it’s particularly important to invest in a Community Facilitator. Facilitators animate the network and engage, connect, and support members. Specific tasks include:

Facilitating gatherings
Whether large or small or face-to-face or online, people coming together need a facilitator to keep discussions on track and achieve objectives.

Connecting members
Facilitators help community members come to know and trust each other. They orient new members, connect people with similar interests and situations, strengthen relationships, and promote collaboration and partnerships.

Promoting participation
Facilitators reach out to members to find out what interests them and help them contribute and get the most out of our online community. They send welcome messages, encourage people to join discussions, and push the best content. They can also help you promote your event.

Bridging
Multilingual facilitators “bridge blog” to connect members who speak different language. They can also bridge different communications media by participating on regional mailing lists, acting as "cross-pollinators" — summarizing discussions, translating blogs, posting announcements, etc.

Improve and increase content

Facilitators can lead by example, creating online profiles and contributing content that informs and inspires.

Finally, Community Facilitators are important because they establish and maintain network guidelines, evolving documents that help members to get the most out of coming together. Examples of community guides include the telecentre.org Community Guide & Community Norms and the Outcome Mapping community's Community Guidelines.

As your network grows, so will your facilitation team. At that point you’ll need a structure to avoid confusion and duplicating tasks (such as greeting a new member twice). Designate an experienced facilitator to be the “Community Coordinator” or “Community Manager” — a person to orient new facilitators and coordinate responsibilities and tasks. If you have communities in more than one language, Community Coordinators can get together to bridge content.

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Network Communications Guide
Previous: create a strong online presence
Next: provide regular updates

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