Written by Mandy Michael

Community and Culture

Building Fenders

Just over a year ago I set up a meetup group for Front End Developers, now we have nearly 500 members, we run regular social and professional events and for all intensive purposes you could say that it has been quite successful.

People often say to me "You have done a great job" associating the success of the group to me, which is lovely, thank you, but this is absolutely not true.

The group is successful solely because of the people who are a part of the community.

You can't force a culture and you can’t force a community, there are no guarantees. What you can do is provide the environment and platform for that to take shape.

For Fenders I really only had two goals, support and inclusion.

It was really important to me that any agency or business rivalries were left at the door. In my mind the community needed to be for individuals first not for business, there are other organisations that can provide a platform for business. The first thing I did was push that idea, whenever people started down the competitiveness track I would redirect them and remind them that the web is about openness and sharing. Soon the rivalry pretty much disappeared and it really isn’t much of an issue anymore.

I also didn’t want to exclude people because they weren’t Front End Developers, though our topics tend to be Front End focussed I have tried to make sure that designers, strategists, UX and back end devs all feel welcome. After all, the web can’t exist without all disciplines coming together.

This was easy when the group was small, but more people means this couldn’t be something that I was the sole custodian for. So for me, seeing people inviting new members from different disciplines, openly helping and supporting people regardless of where they were from makes me infinitely happy.

Culture can’t be bought, it can’t be forced and it can’t be manufactured.

You need genuine communication and that only comes from people who get involved and care about the community as much as you do.

You can’t foster a culture without the right people, if you are struggling to create that vibe that underpins your vision look at the people. If they aren’t supportive of your goals teach them how. Put them in situations where they can’t carry on the way they are, show them there is a better way. People won’t always change if you don’t give them the opportunity, sometimes you just need to give them a push. If they don’t like it they will leave and find a group that better suits them, otherwise they will thrive and your community will be better off for it.

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Contact me on Twitter @mandy_kerr, or email me