I believe that, behind any powerful movement, you’ll find community professionals. Or, at least, people doing the work. They may not do it for a living, they may just call themselves an organizer, but they do the work.
They aren’t usually the spokespeople for the movement. They aren’t the most visible faces in the community, they may not be the one talking to the media. But without them, the movement would probably crumble.
Groups need organization and management. They need people who work quietly to ensure that their efforts attract the right people for the right reasons; that those people know how to make their voices heard in a way that will be productive and effective. They need someone who will rebuke people who are co-opting their message in a way that makes them look bad.
In other words, they need onboarding, moderation, facilitation and volunteer management. They need someone to shine a light on the best contributions and listen to their feedback and give it the attention it deserves.
Our online communities may not be movements, but I think of them similarly. Respected leaders come out of our communities – people who become well-known, lead the industries they are in and, yes, sometimes build movements of their own. I’ve seen this myself, on my communities and on communities where I have been a participant.
When I built phpBBHacks.com, which was at one time the largest unofficial resource for the phpBB forum software, we had many members who went on to do amazing things. They were recognized in and outside of our community. The authors or co-authors of the first four books about phpBB were members of our community. A member of my staff went on to lead development for the entire project.
I’ve written about SitePoint many times. But from the years I was in that community, I can think of so many people who grew to become incredible business leaders and developers, authors, public speakers and more. There is definitely an alumni factor, but we were empowered by the people who managed that community, first and foremost.
This is common in our industry. Community professionals build wonderful spaces where people are empowered to grow. This growth can have many positive outcomes. But never forget the contributions of the people behind the scenes, quietly making the magic happen.