Methods of community studies and community building. The Community Canvas Model.

Three foundational elements along with the concept of a Minimum Viable Community.

  • Community building

The Community Canvas was created by three people: Fabian Pfortmüller, Sascha Mombartz, and Nico Luchsinger. They all cared a lot about making communities stronger and better. They noticed that there wasn't a good guide for how to build a community, so they decided to make one themselves. They used their own experiences and talked to lots of other people who run communities to come up with the Community Canvas. This model helps anyone trying to start or grow a community by giving them a clear plan to follow.

Three fundamental elements of any community

A community is formed around three core elements or building blocks:

  • Identity
  • Shared Experience
  • Structure


Identity answers the questions of what we aim to achieve and how we wish to change the world around us through our community.

It encompasses the shared ideas and values, the reasons why people come together. It’s what keeps people connected, even when they’re not actively doing anything together. Examples include religious communities, lifestyle groups, political movements, minority communities, subcultures, and fan communities.

To define identity, one must set a goal and identify who the members of our community are.

Shared Experience

Shared experience revolves around protecting mutual interests and how we can work together effectively. It's about what we do as a team, with the expectation that we will achieve more together than individually. Experience-based communities bring us together around a specific activity. For example, gaming communities, student unions, etc.

To create a shared experience, it's necessary to devise collective actions and various types of activities.


Structure is what transforms a group into a social entity. Without structure, a community doesn’t last long, as chaos ensues in its absence. Any formalized communities start with structure: corporations, political parties, NGOs created for specific funded programs.

To develop a structure, one must come up with a way of communication and the order within the community: what tools and platforms are used, how tasks and roles are distributed in the community, how we will seek resources and funding.

The Community Canvas Model

These three elements form the foundation of the Community Canvas model, highlighting the aspects critical to nurturing and maintaining a strong, cohesive community. By focusing on identity, shared experience, and structure, community builders can create more impactful and sustainable communities.

Minimum Viable Community

Progressing through the three blocks of the Community Canvas model and addressing specific questions allows us to effectively describe our community. Responses to a minimal set of questions (9 in total) enable us to create the Minimum Viable Community (MVC).

MVC should be able to answer the following 9 questions:

  1. Purpose: What is the community's goal? Why are we creating it?

  2. Audience: Who is the community for, and what are the criteria to join, participate, and remain in the community?

  3. Values: What are the three principles that are important to us?

  4. Definition of Success: How do we measure the community's success? At least three metrics we will track (e.g., number of members, number of events per year, etc.).

  5. Experience: What activities help us achieve our goal? What kinds of events do we have, how do we welcome our members, and how do they leave, etc.?

  6. Roles: What roles exist within our community, and how do they interact with each other?

  7. Rules: What principles and limitations allow us to work efficiently?

  8. Governance: How do we make decisions, and who makes them?

  9. Engagement: Through what channels does interaction occur, and what will that interaction look like (e.g., chat groups in messengers, forums)?

By answering these questions, you can construct a basic map of your community. This approach not only helps in clarifying the foundational aspects of the community but also serves as a practical guide for its development and growth.

The Minimum Viable Community concept emphasizes the importance of having a clear, focused starting point. It suggests that by understanding and articulating responses to these crucial questions, community builders can create a sustainable and engaging community environment. This foundational structure also allows for adaptability and growth, as the community evolves and its needs change over time.

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The Community Canvas model

Published: Apr 05, 2024