I'm Not a Community Manager. I'm a Tummeler

So, our kindred spirit Alex Hillman wrote this very very fantastic post on the difference between a “Community Manager” mindset and a “Tummeler” mindset.

Community Managers do things for the community. Tummelers create an environment to connect people to each other:

While a Tummler has the same objective – to encourage people participating in the dance floor – Tummlers take a very particular approach to “warm” the crowd.

They cruise the party. They listen, and they observe. They ask questions, and they earn trust.

They meet people at the edges of the crowd, connect with them, and then slowly help those people discover their own way into the mix.

Like a human KitchenAid fitted with a special invisible paddle designed for coaxing empathy out of almost anyone, a Tummler stirs, blends, & incorporates the people they encounter with each other.

And a Tummler actively seek to stay out of the spotlight for more than a few minutes at a time, or however long is actually necessary.

Alex makes the point that Tummelers nurture a network–where community members create value by interacting with each other:


  • How can we use the community call / community lunch to nurture a more “tummel-y” mindset? (If you agree that’s something we should do :smile:).
  • When do we feel like we’re doing things for a community, and when do we feel like we are empowering connections?
  • What’s an example of a Tummel-y aspect of some P2PU learning experience? One that’s more “Cruise-Director’y”?
  • Curious about what you all think about value in terms of peer learning. Maybe we should ask our communities what they think the value is?

@jane, @bekka @1L2P @jaumebarcelo @oxtralite curious about your ideas :smile:

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I agree with the post. That is what peer-to-peer is all about. We don’t even need a tummler, as we are all tummlers to a certain degree.

Answering the “questions”.
1.- I see tummling all the time at P2PU. It justs happens without having anyone pushing for it :slight_smile:

2.- It is good doing things for the community as long as you enjoy it and have fun. It is also important to enjoy what others do for the community. Sooner or later we meet people with common insterests or complementary skills and it is just natural to introduce them to each other.

3.- I think that a course is running tummly when it does not require a particular facilitator. There is a group of facilitators but it is not possible to identify a clear “leader”. A “Cruise-Directory” experience is when there is someone clearly taking the lead and the responsibility of answering everyone else’s comments (yeah, that’s what I do).

4.- The value in peer learning is tremendous. I suffer from a chronic disease. I have very little energy. Still, there are many thinks to be done with little energy in peer-to-peer learning. In a peer-to-peer environment it is not necessary to be smart or strong. All you need to do is a tiny occasional contribution and take advantage of the contributions of others. The fact that everyone teaches and everyone learns is extremely stimulating for all the participants.

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I’d bet that many of you had tummlers in your pasts, even if it’s before p2pu, influencing how you approach people in your communities. Tummling is not only non-positional, it’s generative, and generational.

I’ll argue that even with you enjoying it and having fun, it’s not always a good thing. In fact, a blind spot becomes especially problematic when you do enjoy doing something.

My favorite example is with another staff member, Adam. When we were getting ready to hire Karina, I asked him to come up with a list of all of the things that he did on a daily basis: things he did every day, things he did when they needed doing, and things that he did periodically. Some things things he enjoyed, other things were “just part of getting things done”.

Then, I asked him to organize that list into two lists: things that NEEDED to be done by him, and things that didn’t. From the things that didn’t NEED to be done by him, Karina would be able to start taking on some of those things as well.

His original “needs to be me” list included a number of things that I knew, for a fact, didn’t need to be him. So I asked, “why does this thing need to be done by you?”

He replied, “Well, because I like doing it.”

I caught him off guard by asking, “So, you don’t Karina to experience that enjoyment, too?”

That was an ah-ha moment. I reminded him that instead of looking at this as something Karina would take away from him, he could look at it as something they could do together.

I’ve shared this same story with community members, too, who have shown tummler tendencies. It’s been a really helpful “ah-ha” for them to see the difference between doing things for other people people, and making the intentional choice to do things with people.

Also, since I skipped this part:

Hi. I’m Alex.


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@vanessa Can you share more in this thread about how you see tummling mapping onto the “hospitality” disposition? Much of the research in community music education focuses on the role of facilitator and Lee Higgins’ work explicating a disposition of hospitality. That concept riffs on the alternative view of “cruise director.”

Here are some direct links to Lee’s work:

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@alexruthmann I totally linked that work you shared on @alex’s original post :smile:

Was totally the reason why I asked you for that research, so I love that this is all coming together!

I’m a debutante. Emily Post. Fox trot classes. The whole 9. Also an Italian-American. Big time.

Growing up, I always saw hospitality not as “receiving people into my home” or “making people comfortable” but helping people enjoy each other. Finding ways to nurture connections. As a hostess, I might model the behavior of openness, possibility and curiosity, but that’s where my “managing” the situation ended.

Present day:
I take that forward with me when designing learning communities. How to empower learners to connect and grow. How to let go and let amazing things happen. I find that thinking in common with Lee Higgin’s work on “the impossible.” We don’t set limits. We enable mixing.

Hospitality is not “receiving” “managing” “anticipating needs.”

Hospitality is about designing an environment for people to maximize their creative opportunities together. Tone-setting, asking questions, modeling behavior.

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I also really liked the article! What I took away from it is that sometimes you need to get out of the way a bit. It is easy to want to be the person making the connections and introductions. It is better if that is something that is part of the community culture rather than the responsibility of a single person.