📻 — Let’s Meet: Sascha Mombartz, Creator of The Community Canvas Framework

This is your Community, Daily.

Reading Time: ~ 7 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

Yesterday’s issue got the amount of attention that I thought it would! Appreciate all your shares around the internets! It’s important that we help more folks build communities & businesses in 2021!

And, yesterday’s issue took ~13 hours to produce, so, I’m taking a step back today with an interview with a new friend and yenizenSascha Mombartz!

🛑 — Don’t miss the bottom section! I have some super-practical tips on optimizing your (newsletter) About page!! 🥰

Let’s jump in — to infinity & community,

— john

Now, I’ve been familiar with Sascha for a while but have only just been able to network, connect, and get to know one another!

In fact, many of us in the community space have used his workflow and community-building framework — The Community Canvas — for years!

Quickly, here are the three, free .pdfs that you can download and use:

  1. Summary — The Canvas and its 3 sections (7 pages).

  2. Guidebook — The 17 themes covered in detail (61 pages).

  3. Minimum Viable Community — 9 question template (GDocs here too)

This is especially useful for folks who like to visualize the entire process or elements as they work together. You can get more frameworks here:

The point is that this yenizen has “seen some stuff” and has the scars to prove it! I’m excited to share this text-based interview with you.

Sascha! Good to hang friend! So, what’s your one-liner for folks who don’t know you and your high-level?

I’m all about thinking, creating, and empowering meaningful communities.

Sascha Mombartz

In one bio, it says that you “help organizations and individuals build belonging, trust, and resilience” — how does that actually work and what does that look like for you?

Belonging, trust resilience are the underlying  fabric of any community.

The more you have of each the stronger and more powerful the community is. Those three are big framing ideas that can be broken down into smaller parts that in turn give you some directionality into what you can work in your community.

Let’s say you want to build more trustwithin your community. Trust is built through shared experiences and getting to know each other. And people get to know each other through conversations and shared experiences.

Now it’s all about figuring out what conversations are meaningful to people, and how can you facilitate them so that they feel comfortable, safe and willing to open up, listen to and learn from each other.

I am still exploring and finding new ways to do all of these things!

You’ve worked @ The New York Times, Google’s Creative Lab, and other large Co’s — how are they doing community right? Wrong?

The New York Times was a great place to work! Not only were they organized and thoughtful but there was also a lot of respect and gratitude for everyone’s work and contribution.

In other words there was a strong sense of trust.

I remember working and collaborating with journalists and engineers where everyone appreciated one another’s skill and knowledge and understood that there were boundaries and that certain things should be decided by the person that was an expert in their field.

Having these clear “cultural lines” can help a community grow stronger, together; so strong in fact that people still felt they could voice their opinions and ideas — and not be judged — and then let others decide.

Personally, I’m still a big fan of NYTimes, but they aren’t perfect.

For instance, there’s been a large (and growing) conversation regarding Coinbase and the whole “bring your whole self to work” issues — I’m not entirely certain how they are defining these terms, but, it’s forcing people to think critically about what is appropriate and what is not.

There are certainly huge challenges to have folks show up with their whole-self but if we want to live in a more just world – where we can work on meaningful things that fill us with purpose and yet, at the same time, allows us to be mindful on our works impact on other.

The reward for having these conversations and being somewhere with your whole self also means you work harder or better and don’t burn out because you’re doing something you believe in and care about.

When did you know that “community” was going to be a big part of your career? How is it helping you achieve your goals?

Fairly recently actually! The Community Canvas was really the spark!

It brought so many things together that I felt passionate about and had thought about from one or another angle for a long time.

For instance, I’m noticing how my thinking as a designer, my experience as a startup strategist, and my experience as a community builder are all coming together in a nice blend!

I have begun to find “my why” with my work and find the right types of fulfillment as I continue my career and journey! I’ve always wanted these things to coincide — now they have!

Tell us about Community Canvas — how did that come about and how can someone best use it for maximum results?

The Community Canvas originated as an idea between myself, Fabian, and Nico, who had started a project called Sandbox.

I got involved and helped them bring their experiences from creating Sandbox into the form of the what we now call The Canvas — a way of thinking through the principles and practices of community development.

Now, I’m working on a brand new framework under Close Knit! I’ve taken all that I’ve learned from my friends and my experiences in-the-field and applying that wisdom liberally!

One of the reasons that I’ve decided to take a fresh and updated perspective on my work via Community Canvas was because I had gotten a ton of customer and community feedback!

The hard but important truth was this: The Community Canvas — although useful and comprehensive — was simply too overwhelming for people to practically use. And, people weren’t sure what to do with the canvas after it was filled out!

🤣 🤦🏻‍♂️

There must be a better way! So, I’m starting over, more simple, with themes and “threads” that are the most important and then gradually giving you the right steps from a safe, secure, and simple foundation.

I can’t wait for you to check it out!

But, if you’re going to use the existing Community Canvas Framework, I’d suggest that you start small, tackle one section at a time, and talk openly with your community as you build it.

There are many other community-building frameworks that can work too:

You also run and manage your own communities as well — what are some tactics and strategies that you uniquely use to build a sense of belonging?

When I talk about belonging I’m always mentioning Peter Block and his idea that belonging is threefold:

  1. You belong to Community

  2. Community belongs to you

  3. You have a longing for Community

All three are hugely-important but the second one — community belonging to you — is far too often overlooked.

You see, a real sense of belonging means that you’ve put yourself into it, you’ve contributed to it and you’ve more than likely contributed in its very development and perhaps even birth!

Community leaders who create space for “co-creation” will give their members a real, authentic, sense of ownership and belonging.

This is my secret weapon: I empower my members, give them autonomy they need to succed, and then invite them into the process of shaping the community that they’ll commit to with me.

Peter Thiel Question: What important truth do most people disagree with you on?

Intention matters: In practical terms intention often makes no difference as the outcome may appear to be the same.

But, to me, understanding WHY someone does something is how I begin to understand them and then build trust. It might not make a large impact on the first encounter but the next one (and the next) will draw us closer.

Why? Because we trust each other!

Who inspires you? Who would you like to thank publicly?

I just want to give a shoutout to every community builder out there. This is HARD WORK and it’s often goes without much appreciation.

But, it’s the most important work in not just businesses but also the world! We are the “glue” that keeps many things going — an entirely thankless job.

Two that have inspired me in 2020 were Rosie Sherry of Indie Hackers and Jack Butcher who’s Visualize Value is blowing my mind!

Also, a few “house cleaning” things!

The first is that I’ve updated YEN.FM’s “About Page” with more relevant and updated information, specifically the section near the bottom — compare what I’ve been using for the last ~2 months or so and what I’ve updated it to:

A few important differences to note here:

  1. I added custom art to level-up the feeling of “professionalism”.

  2. I added another “Subscribe” button — most folks don’t do this enough!

  3. I changed it from “What you can expect…” to “I don’t have to tell you anymore…” — a fundamental difference!

The last part is the unlock friends: The moment you have some of your more important pieces “set” and you’re starting to see a real growth curve, you need to GO BACK and edit your positioning statement(s), value prop(s), and anything that is NO LONGER RELEVANT or TRUE.

Most folks do not even attack their “About Page” in this way but that’s because they don’t want to win — if you’re going to stand out in a very, very busy and noisy product & community world…

… you have to go the distance!

If you compared my “About Page” to most Substack Publishers… I’d win.

👟 —Now go do likewise my yenizens — I’m here for you.

Updating old content is a real powermove that takes a little scheduling, that’s all. Put it in as a calendar-reminder once a month and you’ll never be out-of-date again.



One of our yenizens is taking it to the next level in 2021…

… seeing folks do stuff like this… it blows me away. But, it’s also what is necessary if you want it really bad.

Keep going my friend — you know who you are. 😉