Community: a double-edged sword

What to consider when investing in your community, and how to stay relevant

Marta Rocamora

CEO and founder
Community: a double-edged sword


Community: a double-edged sword

What to consider when investing in your community, and how to stay relevant

A major reason why people are searching for co-living accommodations is that beyond a roof and a convenient place to stay ( all furnished, flexible contracts, access to more with no maintenance cost, etc) they might find companionship; new friends, new business partners or at least a support system should anything happen. So, when most of our clients approach us with the desire of using the community as a growth engine for their business, the question never seems to be whether they should invest or not in the community. Intuitively, everybody seems to have that natural hunch, that intuition that there is great untapped power in building a community, or recognizing the one they might already have, formalizing it, professionalizing it.

So the questions are more: “Where do I start?” “How much shall I invest?” “How long will it take for my investment to have a clear return?” “What is the risk I should be managing for?” “ How do I manage it?” “ Who has experience ?” And the answer tends to be; “it depends, and requires complex analysis and a strategy that is adapted to one’s business situation.” When our clients try to face it alone, they might face the risk of decision paralysis, not knowing how or where to start, what to prioritize, or when they dismiss it’s complexity they end up hiring an in-house intern or junior, or (less often) someone too senior for the portion of the budget they really want or can invest in at the moment. Remember community is our vessel to build trusted relationships, it requires time and gains value exponentially the more its used.

So below are some elements to consider when investing in your community that hopefully help you build some perspective and respond accordingly.

Community as branding

— It is a great place to build the bridge between the intangibles and the concretes metrics. We are all familiar with the concept of branding and marketing, and we all have a necessity of commercializing our assets. Here, the invitation is to appreciate how essential weaving the processes of Community will become to your Unique Selling Proposition.

The language you will use is beyond a tool for marketing, to attract your talent, your clients, your providers, and to retain them. It is a unifying force that can be unlocking a superior business model.

What’s the double edge of the sword? It is a serious engagement, it requires commitment, a strong narrative supporting your business objectives, and a digital presence that showcases your narrative and allows you to be part of the dialogue. You do not want to build an inauthentic branding on community experience that is not backed by actual teams managing and working for the community or that has no tech that supports smooth operations. The reputational risk will become greater as you increase your exposure. You must be intentional, and bring in sophisticated management that can integrate all the moving parties.

Another point of caution is one can easily confuse community mission and vision with business vision and missions as they are very tied. Or limit the concept of community to only be a branch of marketing, another tool for external or internal communications. Becoming a no man's land, often supporting sales but not really driving them, or an additional arm of customer support but not responsible for its satisfaction. This is a mistake, the community responds truly to the question of how the crowd is helping you scale (or what we like to call grow). Community as branding works with marketing, with sales, but it goes beyond.

Community as experience

— Here you have the opportunity to use the community as the threading factor to analyze your operations, from your scouting of locations to the development of your asset life cycle to mapping your customer journey. The goal here is starting with adopting Dadirri mindset (becoming highly conscious of space, deep listening) to understand more acutely your customers, your cycles, how your people work, fine balance the moving parts, ideally from the phase of development to your asset being built and functional.

Here the risk, is dispersion, or not using the insights gained to transform the experience until is too late. By not being strategic you might find yourself overspending in certain areas and not reaping the benefits. Examples are incorrect activations of spaces, building units that keep on proving to be dysfunctional for the user, and increasing conflict, discomfort, and overuse, which could be very costly. Externalize the operations to untrained people, with no clue on where you stand on vision and mission, who ultimately will be thought of by your customer as your representation.

Another risk is timing, we have had clients that come to us once they have failed their commercialization when their occupancy numbers are low, they think that community can be this magic wand to bring people in and reconnect with their physical experience. Yet they often seem to think this translates mainly to event production, content creation, maybe some hospitality. Preferably cheap kind, since they are losing money every day, feeling the pain of the vacancy. I cannot stress enough, that yes, the community can be an antidote, yet it requires time, trust, and intention even in how you build, and the furniture you use. Hence the experience, you can be strategically designing for it, and go beyond just having people sharing space.

And remember, the pandemic also reinforced change in the use of spaces. Experts thought experts thought that collaborative spaces would bring a slump in profit but actually, they have been boosting them by adding value through user experience.

Data & Communities: sharing and protecting data source

Community as data

— here to me is one of the most exciting unexploited points. I think everybody in our field is fully aware of the lack of data and recognizes the novelty of the seriousness of the field. Community has the opportunity to be the framework to become more data-driven in the areas that matter. For that, it is essential that we keep on conceptualizing tools that allow us to create and maintain vibrant communities. Find the right metrics that work for your community and your spaces, to measure them. It is no the same to build an intergenerational co-living in a rural area as a shorter stay experience for digital nomads in the middle of a downtown area.

The risk is being overwhelmed, failing to choose a plan, and staying in intangibles. Either because you feel you are already doing it right, you might have great generous talent, going above and beyond, doing the invisible work of building community, but not being rewarded for it. So why measure it? These wonderful beings are prone to burnout. As natural givers, they will also tend to have difficulty setting boundaries and quantifying what is done, you will often be surprised by how much was done with so little. Since they are always in the doing, it might be harder to pause and dissect what are the procedures in place, what are the ones needed, and what is important to measure. The risk of staying in intangibles or feelings is that you will not know how to identify, to replicate and so it will be really hard to calculate your ROI. At best you will be able to see the cost of your investment but since the impact will be felt across multiple departments you won’t be sure where to keep on investing.

If not given some structure or access to training that helps your talent grow in their profession, it will be hard to prioritize, they will either plateau, get bored, or leave with one amazing new opportunity, either to build their own business or with a client of yours. As they are at your forefront they are constantly accessing new information and opportunities, if you never take the time to understand and quantify, all the knowledge will leave with them.

Community as adaptability

In times when all seems uncertain the best we can do is to learn to be more adaptive. Investing in community, means investing in clarity, in asking better questions, and finding the common grounds. It helps reveals the pattern of how people think, feel and behave and service accordingly.

It is the permission to innovate, to be able to be in touch with your assets, clients, operations, and teams that allows you to move from being rigid and formal to fluid and flexible. Allowing for authentic feedback is a massive benefit. Having a controlled space to try special projects is priceless. How many times have we repeated the same mistake over and over because we didn’t take the time to listen to the maintenance person that knows very well that replacing the broken part with the same one is not solving the problem?

Now if done properly, with the right roots, your adaptability must have clear boundaries. SIMPLE rules of the game if you wish. Otherwise comes the risk of overpleasing, and over-personalizing, there is such thing as being too flexible. There is no need to add more complexity to an already ambiguous operation. Remember people are looking for personal experience, not personalized. They want the experience of being seen and belonging. That is a dynamic consistent experience, not a one-off, achieved on the first day of onboarding.

To stay competitive, relevant, and successful, you can no longer keep on dismissing the complexity of the people’s business you are in. You need to embrace being nuanced and always grounded in reality so as to be responsive to your time’s innovation. Pay attention to who is managing your operations, and your communities. Are they adaptable? Who is helping you grow?


We don’t know what the future holds, nobody knows but for us, at GroundInn we truly believe in the power of community as a beneficial driving force, we will keep on investing in research, talent, and servicing our clients to build the best sharing spaces and communities globally.

What about you? What kind of community will you be investing in?

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