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“The Happiness of Community Building” at TECOM Conference in Shanghai

tecom conference shanghai
TECOM Conference took place at EXPLORIUM 2.0 in Shanghai

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be on stage at TECOM Conference in Shanghai to share about “The Happiness of Community Building.” The line up was excellent, and it was great fun to share the stage with insightful speakers. Big up to Marian (interviewed here) for putting TECOM together.

The post below is a transcription of my talk. I added a bunch of personal anecdotes to it on stage, but you’d have to watch me live to hear them 😆. I’d love to improve my delivery of “The Happiness of Community Building,” a topic that I shared once before in Beijing, so please -> comment with your suggestions and improvements at the bottom!

Matthieu Bodin, speaker at TECOM Conference

Raise your hands if…

The act of building communities is selfish. We build communities because we seek happiness. And that’s ok, I honestly don’t blame you, I am the same!

In fact, what I have discovered is how Community Building has all the right pieces for somebody to find happiness. But at the same time, it is so easy to get lost along the way.

I have been building tech communities in the region for the past 8 years. It has been a fascinating journey that I’m glad to share today on stage.

Community Building has the elements to help somebody find happiness

Not a regular hobby

When it comes to Community Building, I don’t believe we’re referring to any regular jobs or volunteering activities. Instead, it is something that one decides to pursue with passion. You wake up in the morning, energized and ready to live according to your values and beliefs. You learn you grow, and that gets you one step closer to happiness.

Meaningful Connections

Community Building is also a wonderful chance to make meaningful connections. The people that you’ll end up spending time with form solid bonds on which you grow happy. You’ve probably heard of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and how they showed that we are happy and live longer also based on the quality of our relationships.

Build the world you want to live in

And finally, with Community Building, you have an opportunity to project yourself in a better world. One that you are actively engaged in creating. This sense of fulfilment is exciting. Your engagement looks good on you as you work towards something you helped imagine. Fulfilment and ownership, two amazing ingredients helping you get on a path of self appreciation and confidence.

Watch out – it is so easy to get lost along the way!

But, it is so easy to get lost along the way. Community Building is brutal and challenging. On the long run, most quit and call it a day. Most get their intentions twisted and eventually look the other way. As energy runs high, stakes get bigger and pressure goes up.

Impact is hard to measure and get value for

Your efforts are so hard to measure! As a Community Builders, it remains so challenging to assess your impact over time. And there are not many organizations willing to pay for the skills you develop, even though many get genuine value from it. There are no prizes for showing up early and cleaning until late. Years later, who would remember the first ones who laid the strong foundations on which we’re celebrating today.

Leaders might build territories

Let’s not underestimate people having change of hearts. Communities get created with positive intentions. But as power gets accumulated, leaders are tempted to hold on to it and modify their values. Eventually, they might create territories, trying to protect them with artificial barriers and real political plays. They become bad players in a community that should (and will) reject them.

Burning out can happen

And on a personal basis, Community Builders aren’t exempt from their own pain. I have seen many wonderful people feeling exhausted, burned out. They their community to seek help they couldn’t find. Community Builders are so engaged with their action that they give it all, consuming their energy entirely and getting face to face with deep fears. This is saddening me even further because I had my own dark moments last year. And I didn’t know where to get help from. I was genuinely ready to calling it a day and abandoning it all.

We won’t stop – so how do we build resilient ecosystems?

We won't stop!

And still, it is clear that all of us in this room today: Community Builders, hustlers, fighters – we won’t stop! Helping the next generations has big place in our hearts. Therefore, we must look at different ways to strengthen our movements. Build more resilient ecosystems with the proper set up to thrive.

Find values for your community

As you grow your community, seat down with your peers and agree on values and how you’ll keep everyone accountable. While that might seem too far fetched, it will help scale your impact and get your mission to resonate with people. I’d suggest to include respect, diversity, and inclusivity. Of course, the key will be in maintaining values as you grow. Techstars has a Code Of Conduct that we expect members of our network to accept and embrace. Feel free to take a look at it here.

Take care of yourself first, before helping others

Do you know how on the safety instructions of an airplane, they ask that you place your oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others? Same here. Take care of yourself first, physically, emotionally, and financially. Celebrate the extra long-term contributions rather than 24/7 sprints that get people exhausted (here is how I’m doing).

Brad Feld, one of Techstars co-founder wrote in his best seller Startup Communities that communities should be built with a twenty years ahead mindset. And the clock resets every day. We’re in this for the long run.

The final element that makes a difference for all of us is getting connected with our peers. Like-minded leaders who share similar challenges and opportunities. Having such a platform is truly game changing and powerful.

That is why I am so excited about TECOM. Get conversations going and make new friends today!

It’s just the beginning, isn’t it?

In conclusion, I genuinely believe that community building has all the right elements that helped me be happy. It could have been so easy to get lost along the way (and it often did), and I keep working at it.

We can make our part of the world a slightly better place

The way I see my role is so well said by a character in a movie I recently watched (Ricky Gervais and Dame Penelope Wilton in After Life). It goes like this:

“I thrive to make this little corner of the world a slightly better place. That’s all there is. Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing that it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.

A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which, they know they will never sit in.

Good people do things for other people. And you’re good, you have so much to give.”

That’s it, the end!

A major THANK YOU to the entire TECOM organizing team and EXPLORIUM. Click here to access pictures taken during the conference.

Author:

Matthieu Bodin is an entrepreneur and community builder. As the International Growth Director at XNode (thexnode.com), he works with startup founders, corporations, and ecosystem players to innovate in China. He is on a mission to identify the relevant model that will help organizations stay ahead of the competition. Previously, Matthieu worked for Techstars as the Regional Manager for Greater China where he supported community leaders to nurture their local tech communities. He has spent 12+ years in Greater China: Beijing, Hong Kong, and now Shanghai. He is on Twitter and Instagram with @maboxiu.

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