I’m thinking a more telling title for this topic might be something like “Using discourse for family or small group communication”…
Well, if you want to give discourse a try, you should definitely invite everyone in the WhatsApp group. Every single person who follows your invitation counts because in the long term, people will probably not want to have two communication channels for the same group and that means you need a critical mass on your discourse forum to eventually pull everyone else over. I agree with @erlend_sh that this is going to be a tough task, but it’s up to you to assess the odds and decide whether you want to invest the time.
Here is a short story from a slightly different context, just to give you an idea of what kind of inertia you’re likely up against: the parents at my daughters daycare were recently informed that the entire daycare will be temporarily relocated to a new site (into a container building) because they want to replace the current building with a one twice the size. The problem is: the site of the temporary building is quite far away from the current site of the daycare and not easily accessible via public transport. At an information meeting with the parents, it became clear that the relocation will cause huge problems for many families and we were given two weeks to more or less formally file a complaint/ constructive criticism or whatever it is the people in charge need to know.
The same evening, I finally setup the discourse instance for organizing from below that I have had on my todo list since long. I set up a category for us parents, pointed a sub-domain to that category, and wrote a quick summary of the preceding meeting. The next morning, I post a couple of notices at the daycare, inviting people to come to that sub-domain. I later learn that daycare staff photocopied my notice and put a copy into every child’s basket (where they usually also put their own letters to parents).
I believe there are about 80-100 children at that day care. There were 30-40 parents at the information meeting. So, one week later: how many people have joined the forum? The answer is two. But I could also see that people did visit the forum (about 120 anonymous page views, they just didn’t sign up.
I don’t give up easily. So I got hold of a list of email addresses from the parents in my daughter’s unit (I don’t have access to the other ones) and invited each of these 29 parents to the topic about the information meeting. I also added a post reminding people that we have one week left to come up with some sort of statement and that such a statement is only possible if people actually articulate their grievances or say whatever they have to say. Almost two days later, who joined? My wife.
Do you think your family can do better than that?
You are not alone there. Books have been written about this. But their focus is usually on large and huge communities. So I think it is interesting to discuss here the specifics of maintaining small communities.
To start with, I suppose the basic conundrum of starting a forum also applies to small forums: you need content to attract members and you need members to create content. One rule of thumb in the big-forum-world is that you need 39 members in order to get one active member. In my daycare group, this doesn’t apply so far: 2/3 of all members (myself excluded) have posted.