This week we launched OwnTrail for Communities, a new way to deepen connection, expand networks and celebrate nonlinear journeys across all the communities you’re a part of. For community builders, it’s a powerful new layer to your community tech stack. For community members, it’s a new opportunity to accelerate connection within your existing communities — and ours.
Here’s how we got here:
Community has been at our core since day one. (If you’ve been with us for a while, you know that “building with you, not just for you” is on repeat over at OwnTrail HQ.) It’s baked into why, how and what we build.
As thousands of people began to map the meaningful moments of their lives, we saw OwnTrail become the place people brought all the parts of themselves…to the tune of more than 30,000 unique milestones both personal, professional and everything in between. From career to aspirations to obstacles, the importance of community in our stories made itself clear in our trails. The communities we belong to are a key dimension of who we are and what matters to us, but so often they are reduced to a single field on your social profile or one-liner in bios. OwnTrail’s Trail Creator was giving space for us to finally include community as part of our story.
Key Learning: When given the opportunity, people naturally weave the communities they belong to into their stories.
Part of what makes communities so powerful is how they align people around an area of focus and/or dimension of our lives: a career path, life stage, aspect of identity or shared interest, for example. More simply, many communities work because they go deep. It was this intentional and necessary depth that got us thinking. Could we strengthen communities by helping their members connect across more dimensions?
So we got to testing! We developed and hosted dozens of workshops for communities of all kinds over the past year or so, guiding nearly 1,000 people through mapping their journey and connecting through story. Connecting through their stories. Founders, creators, parents, freelancers, career pivoters, college students, social clubs…we collaborated with communities excellent at going deep in their domain, and we asked them to trust us to help their members explore their broader life experiences for an hour or so.
The results were overwhelmingly positive. People got real. They got vulnerable. They shared, celebrated, supported and authentically connected. And while receiving rave reviews for our workshops made us feel good, the real measure of success was what attendees did afterward. They returned with this deeper connection to wherever their community lived online, and they kept going. They DMed, they proudly shared the links to their trails, they suggested programming and event ideas to their community leaders. They invited new folks to join.
Key Learning: OwnTrail can accelerate and seed connection between community members that drives ongoing engagement and growth.
Help communities connect and grow while expanding the OwnTrail community to add more value for our members? An obvious win-win. But we had to figure out how to do it. We knew we weren’t pivoting to become a community management platform. That’s an entirely different product and business — one that other smart people are innovating for and we’re happy they are! Knowing what we weren’t going to do helped us discover what we needed to do.
That’s where OwnTrail for Communities was born.
Our chief growth officer Lizelle pointed out that OwnTrail is a natural and powerful part of a community tech stack. We add a powerful layer of connection whether the community lives on Slack, Discord, Mighty Networks, Circle or even Facebook Groups. We designed OwnTrail for Communities to be low lift, high impact from the jump. No technical integration, no drawn-out onboarding — we focus on delivering deep connection and network expansion from the start.
The Takeaway: When you’re truly building for and with community like we are, you don’t see opportunities as moments for you to win — you see them as moments to add value for all of us.
That’s what OwnTrail for Communities is all about. And I can’t wait to see how our collective communities thrive as a result.