Creating your own DIY community in higher-ed

How often do you find yourself in a situation where you have an idea, and everyone is in full support of the idea, but nobody wants to actually act on the idea except you? Or worse, people just don’t understand the idea.

What I’ve come to learn about silos is that the only way to prosper and endure them, is to OWN your ideas.

DIY to me


I grew up in South Florida as a very casual member of the hardcore scene. “Member” is a stretch honestly, but I’ve always had friends who were in it, and at arm’s reach. The culture of DIY (Do It Yourself) where you curate your own spaces for live shows, create your own zines and fully create/sell your own merch was always the most fascinating part of hardcore (oftentimes more than the music). It was a fully community-driven culture free of middle men and suits, essentially, but it was all about coming through with your ideas and finding the resources to do it yourself.

So connect this with higher-ed community management and digital media, where depending on your division’s setup, you’re basically by yourself. How do you get your ideas out there? And how do you get people on board with it? And at the same time, how do you align it with the overall goal? Always keep that in mind… everything you do needs to come back to your goal.

Carve out your community

Find the creatives in your division that will be on board with your idea. Create relationships with them, and bond over project aspirations. Basically shoot the shit with them so that when you come with an idea, they’re ready and totally with you on the process.

Over my time as a social strategist at FIU, I’ve formed a small little team of creatives that convene over small, special projects. These are the passion projects like the Survival Guide and holiday videos, that are more experimental at heart (compared to the work others do in the division), but add a value to the goals. This is your DIY community.

Some cool projects my community has been involved in:

Find your adopter

Oftentimes this will be your mentor and/or boss; or someone above you that really understands what you’re up to. This person is your community adopter. One who will be the voice that backs you up when you create something that, at first, may not be as visibly valuable to others. But with the klout this person has, higher-ups might be more inclined to be on board with your ideas. But always make sure that the division goal and/or your goals are in mind. As long as you connect your experiment with that, left-field ideas could potentially get the acceptance and value it deserves.

And listen, there is always value in younger, more experimental perspectives with people that are not as digitally-inclined. Even if people don’t understand it yet, they will.

A truly DIY approach


Sometimes all it takes is photoshop, a phone, 12 pennies and good vibes to create something incredible. I really dig what Meg Bernier from St. Lawrence University did with her students’ Instagram posts. She created postscards out of Instagram photos and used them as “thank you” notes. Painfully simple process for a really extraordinary idea. She used photoshop to superimpose the post on a postcard template, uploaded it to her phone and sent it the local drugstore to print for literally 12 cents. You don’t need a big budget to create an incredible community experience with students. Odds are you probably have cool stuff around the office you can use to make a student’s day.

Work with your resources.

Social and content is DIY

This is more an observation than anything, but…

The very nature of social media where one creates and curates content is in itself DIY. I’ve found myself in situations where I can’t physically be somewhere, or I don’t have the means to create something out of a camera. But tools like Storify or whatever you’re using to curate content helps you create content on the fly.

Not long ago, the Brazilian national team practiced at our soccer field. It was hush-hush so we didn’t know about it really. But Brazilian fans did, and they took to social with photos and videos of dudes like Neymar and Hulk playing on our field.

We created a quick Storify from users’ photos and that’s all she wrote really. I didn’t have a pro photographer on site, and I wasn’t there to even post about it. I rummaged through content and created something. DIY.

Bonus content: Here’s one of my favorite hardcore songs from one of my favorite bands

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