I love being part of various creative and entrepreneurial communities. Each community, if online or in person via meet-ups or networking events (RIP – 2020), has their own vibe. I am part of a few different motion design Slacks, that I find hugely inspirational, great for support and even useful for finding job opportunities. I run a Motion Design and Animation Meet-Up (remember that time when we were still meeting face to face in public?) myself, here in Munich, Germany. It’s so fun meeting new people, who are maybe new in town or new to the industry but also reconnecting with regulars. You get a glimpse into someone else’s bubble, get validated in what you are charging or realise you might have to adapt your approach to a client or a project.
Sheep or shepherd
Sheep get a lot of flack for being mindless followers. There is nothing wrong in being a community member, without leading your own groups. Feeling the support of a community is something to be cherished. But you only get the most out of the community if you engage, interact, help and contribute. If you become known as someone who will help others, the community will stand by your side when you need it.
Being a shepherd and leading a community, has its own perks and downsides. The perks are, that you can shape the path your community is taking. Perhaps it’s a special interest group, a group centered around a certain hobby or a networking group made up of entrepreneurs and professionals. It also means you are responsible for the community.
You need to stay active, show up, even if you don’t feel like it and make others feel excited and motivated. Building a community means, you are taking the lead in gathering people of the same interests. You are proactive in organising meetings and starting conversations, instead of just wishing for this type of group existed.
Special interest groups
Running and being part of a community are two sides of the same coin for me. I have always liked surrounding myself with a group of like-minded people that share the same interests. If you have heard of SIGGRAPH, then you know what I am talking about.
The earliest I remember, building a community like that, was when I had moved to London in 2012. I was about to start my first job as a professional motion designer and didn’t know anyone in town. Being an avid Couch Surfer at the time, I decided, the best way to meet new people was to go to a meet-up of sorts. I met Benoit Terminet Schuppon at a community sketching event. I later found out, he was passionate about reviving the once active London ACM SIGGRAPH chapter. Together with a small group of volunteers, we mapped out what the chapter should represent, how we would organise events and how we wanted to serve the community.
Naturally, Benoit was voted to be the chair. It was his drive that got us there after all. I took the seat as secretary for the first 2 years after the chapter’s revival, to document chapter board meetings. Our group of volunteers, became officers and co-founding board members.
I found organising and promoting events most exciting about being part of the chapter. I was able to get my first taste of social media marketing, layout design for event posters, crowd management at events and managing a team of merry volunteers. During this time I feel, I grew into my role as a shepherd and designer.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. To grow the chapter, attract members, host events, we had to invest a lot of our own time and leg work into the community. Most evenings, after a whole day’s work at our day jobs, we were planning events, meeting potential speakers or studios who might host events or discussing chapter activities. It was full steam ahead and all hands on deck, especially in the beginning. Once we managed to expand our team, it was easier to distribute tasks and get some of weight off the officers’ shoulders.
We organised a student/mentor animation workshop hosted by HP Europe’s at their ZED event, a talk by Zach Parrish, the Art director of Walt Disney Studio’s Big Hero 6, for 400 guests at the Cineworld Haymarket in London and even went on to start an annual 3-day tech convention, called Tech Talks.
It is mad to me, what we managed to accomplish from the ground up. By the time I handed off my officer role as secretary at the end of 2015, we had a solid social media following and had built a community of attendees that visited our events regularly. I felt so lucky to be part of an organisation that was bringing so much joy to people and was happy that the chapter was now standing on it’s own feet with the help of many more volunteers, who were just as passionate about keeping the chapter alive as us, the small group of co-founders.
Once an organiser, always an organiser
Once I moved away from London, I became less involved in the day-to-day of the chapter. We had fantastic new officers who were taking the lead and I was sure it was in good hands. But I couldn’t keep my hands off organising events. I became the main organiser of the Munich Board Games Meet-up. Playing board games is one of my passions and being part of that community was the fastest way to get to know new people in Munich.
I also am part of a few motion design Slack groups, which I find very helpful. I started noticing that some of these, were quite North America centric. Some advice regarding the business side of being a freelancer, didn’t apply to me and I felt the urge of surrounding myself with people of a similar socio-economic background. That’s when I started the MDEU Slack, where European based creatives within the Motion Design industry gather and exchange ideas.
We are still quite a small community, which makes it a little quiet sometimes, but with time we will grow. We strive to have a community call once a month and challenge each other to Motion Monday’s animation challenges, we critique during the calls. If you are a professional or student in the motion design industry and are based in Europe, ping me a message and I will add you to the group.
If sheep or shepherd, all are welcome!