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Know Your Community


A lack of understanding of your community limits your ability to support and engage with them.


Projects typically need to get contributions from a range of different people and organisations, who may bring different skills, perspectives and information to the project. Providing effective support to them will help improve the dataset and will benefit the project.


When scoping your project, map out your stakeholders, including those who are likely to contribute to the project, use the data it collects or benefit from it. Plan how you will engage with these stakeholders in order to recruit them to the project, understand their needs and communicate the goals of the project.

During your project, monitor your community of contributors and users to ensure you are still serving their needs and are engaging with them effectively. It may be helpful to use metrics based on user profiles and how contributors use the system. Where there are perceived gaps, eg because of lack of contributions from certain stakeholders, look at how you can improve engagement and encourage participation.

Collaboratively maintained datasets are designed to support a range of stakeholders. Understanding who they are, how they might contribute, their knowledge level and experience, and how they might benefit from the data you are collecting, are important aspects of a successful project.

Community engagement is an ongoing process. Ensure you are clearly and effectively communicating with the community, think about their needs, and improve the language, tools and documentation as needed. You may also want to consider an Evolving Schema if you develop a better understanding of data user needs.

Projects that need to collect data about locations or communities, or that are cataloguing different aspects of culture or society, will benefit from having a diverse community: more voices and wider contributions create a stronger dataset. Reflecting on the diversity of your community can help you make it more inclusive.

Data about your registered users, eg based on their profile information, or about patterns of contribution, eg how and when people contribute, can provide useful insight into your community. However, you should balance your needs to recruit and support your community with their rights to privacy.

Related patterns

Follow Your Users

It can be difficult to decide which communication and collaboration tools are best to use on a project.

Learning Curve

Contributors may not feel confident about successfully participating in your project, especially if they believe that they need some expert knowledge in order to contribute.

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