Lim Min Li: Leading DesignSG
Min Li is the founder of DesignSG, a Telegram community for designers in Singapore. She has been a mentor for aspiring UX designers at social enterprise, Hatch, and GovTech’s ‘Girls in Tech’ programme. She aims to build a library of mentors across the design fields in DesignSG, to eventually run mentorship programmes for designers in Singapore.
Min Li majored in communication at Monash University and completed her Masters in Industrial Design in Milan, Italy. After a hodgepodge of experiences in various start-ups ranging from hardware, healthtech, proptech, edtech, and teaching kids to code, she is now at GovTech, working with JTC's Smart District Division.
QUICK TIPS FROM MIN LI
- Form a supportive leadership team that aligns with your values and goals for the community.
- Do not be afraid to reach out to your social and professional networks to grow your community and learn from existing community leaders.
- Ensure your fellow admin team members are always kept in the loop and act as a coherent unit.
Join the community: DesignSG Community
Why is community-building important to you?
When I returned to Singapore after almost four years abroad, I felt like I lost my community. I no longer had the same work family and friends to lean on which led me to decide that I had to rebuild my networks in Singapore.
“I see community-building as having a library of people. Your people are resources that you can refer to when you need inspiration and guidance in your journey, not only industry-wise but also in life. I also believe that having a strong community is key to success in life and work.”
How did you first build you community?
The first step was to find people with common interests– starting a design community in my case. The next step was to invite them out for coffee. The third step is to pick a good coffee place! I did not have any agenda apart from getting to know each other and figuring out if we clicked.
“Community-building is an activity that does not have any end and is an activity you must be in for the long run. That is why it is crucial to ensure that you can find people you can click with.”
Once we got down to building the DesignSG community, we began by creating the leadership admin team and identifying key resources. There were three of us in the admin team – Siddhant, Brecht, and I; we were all new to community-building, so we tapped on our contacts and gathered insights from existing community leaders. I must credit Michael Cheng (Michael Cheng runs the Singapore PHP User Group, co-founded the iOS Dev Scouts, and is the organiser of PHPConf.Asia) here. We met at HackerspaceSG, one of the first tech communities back in 2014, which we are both still a part of today. That interest in being part of a community of people with creative, hacker, maker tendencies is most likely what propelled both of us to grow from being in and benefiting from such a community, to then creating our own similar communities. He also gave great advice on running communities as he has so many communities of his own. He has a lot of in-depth knowledge and is a key resource that my admin team still consults from time to time.
Do you share content to kickstart dicussions or do you allow the members to do so?
The admin team privately compiled a list of resources which we would post to get discussions rolling. At times, we would post questions and if no one replied, another admin would respond to encourage people to jump in. Sometimes, we also have to learn to be comfortable with silence. At the start, the group was silent which is fine because we understand that as a community that uses Telegram, our members do receive many other messages, so people do need time to tune out of being social. We do not always have to fill the silence because if you fill it up too much with subpar content, people may leave the group and we do not want that to happen!
“The key thing to remember is: If there is an activity in the community, it should be useful and engaging.”
What was the first initiative that you planned for the community?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 began right after our first coffee meeting. However, it turned out to be for the better as people were stuck at home and they were keen to stay connected by joining an online community. Our first DesignSG initiative was an online event called Design Ask Me Anything (Design AMA) where a panel of three designers shared varied design experiences, ranging from the field of cars and aerospace to education and even design mentorship.
We are currently past 1,900 members with close to 100 new members every month! What helped us grow was that the admin team reached out horizontally to other design groups. Since we were also connected to people in the technology community, we leveraged on friends who were interested in branching out from technology to design to help us grow.
Since events are currently mostly conducted online, how do you encourage your members to take part virtually?
“Zoom fatigue” is real, especially since most of us have meetings all day long on video conferencing platforms. It is difficult to convince members to spend even more time on video conferencing platforms after work hours.
Recently, we experimented with the group voice chat function on Telegram. Surprisingly, we saw a better response with such spontaneous group voice chat events and the lack of video might be a pro rather than a con. When there is no video, members worry less about how they look and are free to focus on the conversation. It also allows members to multitask at work. For instance, if I am very busy at work yet want to attend this ongoing voice chat event, I can do so because no one will see that I am still working.
What is the biggest challenge you faced thus far in your community-building efforts?
The biggest ongoing challenge is managing difficult members of the community. We are constantly learning and refining our responses to this. The community believes in finding the right balance between how we offer a safe space for people to express different opinions freely and the level of disagreement that is expressed. They are free to like or dislike a design, but we balance and monitor the expression of their dislike, especially if disagreement is expressed in a way that makes others feel uncomfortable. If other members feel unsafe, this freedom of expression is taken away from them.
“If you are starting a new community, do not allow this kind of behaviour to go on for too long or it will hinder your community’s growth and enthusiasm for participation.”
How do you approach difficult members?
As the admin team keeps enforcing content guidelines, members begin to get a hang of them after a while and model the behaviour. It is wonderful how some of our members take the initiative to step in and respond when someone is getting out of hand. It defuses the situation most of the time. We did have to ban a few people for repeated violations and spammers as well.
“Another tip is to have a separate group for the admin team to agree upon how to manage a difficult person or situation. This also ensures that you will come across as a coherent unit. Similarly, keeping each other in the loop is also very important in making decisions so I highly recommend setting up a separate group chat for community leaders to discuss admin matters.”
Last updated 24 December 2021
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