The Value of A Community by Anna Jacobson

The need for community is fundamental to being human. But in the recent past, alongside the rise of the internet, the nature of many communities has changed as community as a service has emerged as an unavoidable reality of the modern business world. From the first social networks to the pervasively interconnected online world of today, there has been a drive toward communities of interest, often as a replacement for communities of place. The companies leading this drive view community as a competitive advantage, creating authentic connections, giving their customers a real sense of shared identity, and unlocking unprecedented scale and value as a result.

Approaching community as a business service creates an imperative to assess its ROI just like any other part of the business: to determine effectiveness, to ensure that resources are being allocated effectively, and to identify areas for improvement. But measuring the impact of a community can be a challenging task. Unlike the outcome of an isolated program or project, a community's impact is often multifaceted, nuanced, accretive, and difficult to quantify. What are the appropriate metrics to evaluate intangibles like cohesion, trust, and social capital? How do you define positive outcomes, and how do you capture data about them? How do you tie the network effects of the community back to the business strategy?

I believe it starts with defining a clear and strongly-held vision for your community. Who is your community and what is its purpose? What do you want to do for and with your community? What does success look like? What do you want to communicate to and about your community?

Although true value will always elude quantitative assessment, this project uses visual analysis to understand a specific community’s value by looking at it from different angles.