Defining Community
Whose stories are you collecting?

Steps to Success: Before the Event


Review Project Team discussions from the Ensuring Inclusiveness workshop.

At the Ensuring Inclusiveness workshop, the Project Team started conversations around who should be invited to contribute Items at the event. Refer back to your notes from the workshop along with the goals for the event, team, and collection that you set as a group. Use your new understanding of cultural competence as you move forward with the rest of the module.


Use the Defining Community Questionnaire to consider the community in multiple aspects. 

Defining the community is a critical step in planning participatory archiving events and collections. It clarifies the “who” of your participatory archiving event. Who are you asking to participate? Who belongs within the community you’re trying to document? Who may not be an obvious choice to include but certainly belongs? Who on your Project Team is a member of the community you are trying to document?

It is important to take time to think about the many different aspects a community envelops. The key is to reach beyond your immediate connections and assumptions. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, you will want to consider your community in terms of: race, ethnicity, gender, language, age, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, education level, sexual orientation, and/or disability. 

Remember as explained in Building a Team, Community Representatives are a part of the Project Team and are ideally empowered to drive these conversations.

The whole Project Team is encouraged to contribute to the Defining Community Questionnaire (download as MS Word or PDF document). The Community Coordinator will need to determine the best way to complete the questionnaire based on the project and the community. They could host a formal meeting or brainstorming session, have an informal conversation with Project Team Members, or ask Project Team Members to individually complete the questionnaire and return it to the Community Coordinator to be compiled into one response. If you decide to host a Defining Community Meeting, the RoPA Developers recommend sharing the questionnaire with participants to review before getting together.

This exercise can also be a great way to make sure that your Project Team is properly composed of representatives from a myriad of community subgroups. Is someone missing? It’s not too late to invite them to join the Project Team!


Share the findings from the Defining Community Questionnaire with the Project Team.

Once the Defining Community Questionnaire is complete, share the final version of the document with the whole Project Team. The Community Coordinator (and the Community Working Group) will use the information to help craft their outreach plans and contact the “movers and shakers” identified in the worksheet in the Engaging Participation module


Work with the Event Coordinator to adapt the Event Registration and Permission Form.

On the day of the event, Contributors will complete an Event Registration and Permission Form. One of the sections of the form has a question about how the Contributor is connected to the community. This information will be used after the event to help the Community Coordinator determine if the event reached its intended audience. 

As the form is written, the community connection is an open-ended question. If you would like to give specific answer choices for this question, connect with your Collection Coordinator to modify this section of the form. 


Work with the Event Coordinator on the event floor plan to make the community visible at the event.

By setting the room in a certain way, the floor plan can allow the community to be highlighted during the event. The Community Coordinator can work with the Event Coordinator to ensure there is physical space for community members to mingle; the equipment needed to project Contributor submissions in real-time on a wall or on a screen; and seating to observe and listen to Contributors as they share their stories and Items.

The Project Team may also choose to include Community Tables, featuring displays related to the event theme. Local community organizations can be invited to share information about their missions and activities with event participants. Libraries, museums, and historical societies can be invited to showcase available resources.