Community Playbook: Nomad Sphere

Community Name: Nomad Sphere

Community Leader: Caitlin Johnson

What is Nomad Sphere? A private community of location independent workers from around the world.

On the origins of NomadSphere

I am a remote worker, working for a US company. At the beginning of the pandemic in Mexico, I started searching for an online community because you know we were going through this experience and we're away from our home country. But none of them really fit my values: I wanted something supportive, I wanted something with like-minded individuals that were cognizant of their privilege of being able to travel to these places. A community that was mindful of their footprint and where we could be adults.

So six of us decided to get together and start an online community with these values that we felt were missing. We called it NomadSphere because we wanted to include people that weren't digital nomads, like teachers, for example.

On building a values-based community

We felt that what was missing in other online communities was transparency, from top to bottom, on how decisions were made. So when we started this community we adamantly said, "We are going to be as transparent as possible." So we decided to write a first draft of the values that we gathered from the community. We found consensus on these values, but after writing the first draft we posted it as a Google Doc, gave members three days to read it (because we're all in different time zones), and allowed members to comment. Once everyone gave their input, we finalized it and sent it out. We've also been flexible about receiving additional feedback because we want people to feel like they are involved in the decision-making process.

That's the general approach that we've taken for our values, our code of conduct, and whatnot. It's been great. Some people are just amazing with words and others like organizing things or thinking about things from a different perspective. It does extend the process for establishing these foundations for the community, but the value and the quality is so much better and it makes the community feel like they were a part of the process like this community. It's for them, not just for us.

On building the community 'product'

Right now it's just a Slack community. We only started it this December, so it's relatively new. We are in the process of putting together guides for people to reference. For example, if you're looking for tips on how to find housing in a new country that you want to go to, then we'll have a guide that provides all the tips and tricks for housing. Same thing for the kind of gear you should bring, or how to budget for long term travel, which is complicated. So, those are things that we plan to incorporate into our community, as well.

On balancing growth and engagement

When we started out in December, we had 20 people. Now, we're above 100 members. The majority of those are from referrals, which I'm super excited about

The biggest challenge for us is growing while maintaining high engagement. We're focused on finding the correct balance for us that protects the community but also lets people access the community.

We got lucky with our initial set of members, which is why we really want to protect them and keep the energy going in the Slack.

On organizing a community that's in every time zone

We have people in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Slack's based on synchronous communication, but there's not a lot of quiet time, because we're spread out all over the world.

Without our input, we've noticed that a couple of members within the community have started hosting game nights. They're hosting out of Southeast Asia where it's morning for them and late for people based in North America, but the timing works out so that a lot of people are able to join.

This is telling us that the community wants to do synchronous communication, so we're thinking about how we can complement our asynchronous Slack with more synchronous communication, maybe on Zoom or Clubhouse. It's not the same as seeing people face to face, but talking synchronously can take connections to another level.

We've been talking about meeting up somewhere when the pandemic's over so that we can get to know each other. Part of the plan is to retreats and meetups in different parts of the world so that we can get to know each other in the physical world.

On giving back to local communities

We promote giving back to the offline communities that we're based out of. So for example, when I was based out of town in Mexico, I took the day off from work to clean the beach.

All the monetization strategies that we've discussed involve some aspect of giving back to the community. Some companies have policies where they give 1% of profits to charity. But we felt that 1% was too little. Our ultimate goal is to preserve the quality and high engagement of the community, so if we were to monetize it in the future, then we would probably dedicate our membership fees back to the community. When we do that, it will be a decision made by the community, too - where do we want to donate.