Empowering Communities: A Valet Roundtable Discussion

To receive you first must give—and in the case of gaining power, your willingness to give power to others is the starting point. It’s the idea of prospering by empowering communities.

Empowering communities is worth doing because it helps you make industry connections and grow friendships.

We recently brought together four of Valet’s leading experts on the topic of empowering communities and asked them to explain what it’s all about, why you need to engage in it, and how to do it.

Empowering Communities: How to Make Connections and Grow Friendships

Joining this roundtable discussion were Valet CEO and Cofounder Kimberly Lapari, Client Success Manager Maureen Crist, Client Success Lead Eric Dye, and Lead Developer Josh Shashaty.

VALET: Say your company sells widgets online. Why is it important that the names and faces of the people in your company become familiar ones throughout the industry?

MAUREEN: A business is only as strong as its network. People do business with people they like and with whom they feel comfortable. And, if they like you, they say nice things about you—word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool.

Empowering-communities-is-what Maureen-Crist-does
Maureen Crist

ERIC: Humans connecting with other humans is how the world moves forward. Get connected if you want to help guide the direction the world is going.

Eric Dye

KIMBERLY: No matter how innovative you are, it’s important to keep your thumb on the pulse of your industry. Making connections helps you to better serve your own client base by getting help, referring services, and deepening your own knowledge. You have the option to learn from others, their successes and their mistakes.

Kimberly Lapari

JOSH: People remember how you feel. People like familiarity, and they like gaining the acceptance of their peers. Those things are incredibly influential in business, in business decision-making, in success, and in empowerment.

Josh Shashaty

VALET: Let’s define our terms. When you speak of empowering communities, which communities do you mean? And what does that empowerment look like?

MAUREEN: I’ll answer that by quoting the World Health Organization on the occasion of the 7th Global Conference on Health Promotion held 10 years ago. They define a community as “groups of people that may or may not be spatially connected, but who share common interests, concerns, or identities. These communities could be local, national or international, with specific or broad interests.”

WHO defines empowerment as “the process by which people gain control over the factors and decisions that shape their lives. It is the process by which they increase their assets and attributes and build capacities to gain access, partners, networks and/or a voice, in order to gain control.”

VALET: So, in practical terms, what does empowering communities mean for your customers?

MAUREEN: We seek to empower the WordPress community and our client community. Our job is to empower our clients’ communities by providing a healthy technology platform. They then can use this optimized platform to enable the empowerment of their own communities.

We empower the WordPress community by actively participating in WordCamps in both the U.S. and Europe. Also, we evangelize for WordPress in our personal and professional networks. And, above all, we empower our client community by providing quality.

VALET: Can you cite a few examples?

MAUREEN. Sure. For instance, we proactively share with our clients information and best practices from the WordPress community. We do this to help our clients optimize the effectiveness of their WordPress websites so that they can do a better job of empowering communities.

Another example is our knowing where our clients are trying to take their businesses or organizations so that we can help them use their websites to get there. Also, we strive to communicate with our clients in a clear and transparent way.

One more example I can offer with regard to empowering communities is that we understand how our clients define quality WordPress management and support. We always make sure their definition matches ours. If it doesn’t, then we figure out how to align them.

VALET: Anyone else want to enlarge upon Maureen’s answer regarding empowering communities?

ERIC: I define both communities and empowerment in the broadest sense possible. It’s something that we believe comes by open, honest, and clear communication. Empowerment is how we’re able to provide information and answers in a way that gives others what they need to make their own informed choices.

JOSH: Empowering communities is all about online business owners and non-profit causes trying to be heard. We make sure that their platforms are stable, usable, and fast enough so that they will be heard.

VALET: Say that a WordPress user wants to practice empowerment. How does one go about it?

KIMBERLY: I see empowering communities as just a three-step process. One, assemble. Two, organize information and communication. Three, create opportunities for formatted discussion that leads to better information and communication.

MAUREEN: I see it as seven steps. The first step in empowering communities is to decide what you want to achieve. Start by defining measurable outcomes. The second step is to assess the current state of empowerment compared with desired outcomes. This allows you to create starting benchmarks. For example, say that female participation in the last regional conference your industry held stood at 66 percent. That’s pretty good. It tells you two-thirds of the women in your industry are empowered to come to a conference and make connections and increase their knowledge. But you decide that more women need to attend in the future. So you define the desired improvement as getting female participation up to 80 percent.

Now comes Step 3, where you develop a strategy—with detailed tactics–to move things from status quo to the desired outcome. Next, in Step 4, you develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of the strategy you put into play. For example, you defined empowerment as “starting a company with no outside funding.” One of the metrics to measure the effectiveness of that empowerment might be monthly revenue minus monthly expenses. Empowerment is the result as long as the remainder is greater than zero.

The fifth step involves completing the tactics defined in the strategy. In the sixth step, you measure and report metrics. Do this on a regular basis so you can determine if the tactics and strategy are guiding the community to the desired outcome state. Lastly, based on what the metrics show, you refine the strategy and tactics.

VALET: How will the empowering communities concept evolve in the years ahead?

MAUREEN: I hope to see disenfranchised communities enable themselves toward empowerment by harnessing the ability to gather, connect and organize online. It’s difficult to know how technology will change in the next 10 years. But I think communities will work hard at incorporating those changes so that they can be more successful in achieving and spreading empowerment.

ERIC: I don’t see empowerment evolving as much as being leveraged. I think people and communities will more often make intentional use of it to change the world for the better.

KIMBERLY: Social media will continue enjoying its status as a huge tool for community empowerment. And that’s good. The more people connect, the more they find ways to keep the momentum going meaningfully through publications, activism, assembly, art, and just about any other physical medium.