How Can You Use Communications to Build Community?

space apps sv 2017

At SecondMuse, in our work and in our company, we aspire to create environments where learning, experimentation, and creativity can flourish. One aspect where this has been paramount is in our storytelling and communications. Over the last two years, SecondMuse has placed an added focus on leveraging the digital tools at our fingertips to engage with communities – reaching more than 150 million people through social media – and, even more, to build the communities we convene to achieve prosperity for all.

Recently, the SecondMuse storytelling team and I connected with the broader SecondMuse to share learnings from our communications work with programs including:

  • LAUNCH convenes influencers, global leaders, the informed, and the impacted to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Founded in 2009 by NASA, USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and NIKE, LAUNCH has mobilized more than 1,000 leaders to accelerate 111 innovators and address 13 of the world’s toughest challenges.
  • Futureworks Incubator, a creation of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) accelerating the growth of 85 hardware startups and advanced manufacturing entrepreneurs in New York City,
  • Frontier Innovators, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange, that is supporting innovative businesses in the Asia-Pacific that are delivering impact through their work,
  • NASA Datanauts, welcoming a diverse community of 200+ people in the data science field to engage with NASA’s open data,
  • and the Space Apps Challenge, a global hackathon presented by NASA which, most recently, engaged 25,000+ people in 69 countries to create 2,000+ solutions for the benefit of Earth.

Drawing from our experiences, we led a dialogue on the best ways we can all use communications to build and bolster communities. Through this gathering, three overarching communications best practices emerged:

  1. Create spaces for organic, authentic connections. When tapping into innovation as a lever for social change, it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs and organizations to operate in silos. We’ve learned that breaking down those silos and building community leads to amplified impact when tackling the world’s increasingly complex problems. This impact is about more than just a recognition of academic degrees, job titles, and organizational affiliations, and begins when we develop shared meaning. While conferencing tools like Zoom and picking up the phone give us the chance to enter into conversations, more widely-adopted tools including Facebook and LinkedIn Groups give us a forum to meet people where they are and facilitate multimedia interaction 24/7 for the purpose of building deeper, more collaborative relationships.
  2. Constantly celebrate the community. While the collective drive of the network is critical, it’s essential to remember the role individual contributors play in ultimately defining the culture and competencies of that network. Through communications, whether on social media to a global audience or within a cohort connected over email and platforms like Slack, we have this incredible opportunity to showcase the aspirations and accolades of those who make our work what it is. This provides a window into the way we work, and it also passes the pen to a new storyteller, giving those contributors the permission to be the authors, editors, protagonists, and ambassadors of their own community’s narrative.
  3. Champion channels as a vehicle for feedback and growth. Learning relentlessly is an imperative of our work at SecondMuse and a necessity in the ever-changing contexts where complex problems live and evolve. With the advent and increased adoption of digital platforms, we’ve been able to open the lines of communication like never before. While it can be tempting to use these channels to simply amplify our own message, the true value lies in using these communications tools to source feedback, listen, and apply those learnings to build a more mutually beneficial experience for all.

Do you have communications best practices of your own? Do you want to learn more about the communications practices we’ve mentioned? Email us at or tweet at us @SecondMuse!

Matt Scott

About Matt Scott

Matt Scott is the Manager of Storytelling and Engagement at the innovation agency SecondMuse. He produces creative promotional campaigns for social impact projects alongside partners including USAID, Nike, NASA, the World Bank, and the White House. Prior to joining SecondMuse, Matt worked with digital agency Social Driver to craft and execute social-first campaigns, including advocacy campaigns for Honda, Harvard, and Digital Learning Day. His efforts have successfully encouraged the FCC to modernize internet in schools by $1.5B, engaged 25,000+ participants in a global weekend hackathon, and reached more than 100 million people on social media.

Want to talk about a potential project? Interested in joining our team? Contact Us