When I do trainings on social capital, we often explore 4 basic steps that can be followed in helping someone get more connected. These steps are simple, but do offer a guide for community building.
The first step is to explore the person's interests in finding the "bridge" to other people. This could be a hobby, interest, or advocation a person has. The second step is to find a community on the other side of this bridge that celebrates the similar interest. The 3rd step looks to find the expected behaviors of that community and coach the person you are supporting to behave similarly. Then fourth, to find a "gatekeeper" who might help guide the new person into the this community
Although each step is important, the gatekeeper is often critical as they (the gatekeeper) provide a sanctioned endorsement of the newcomer. The sociological concept driving this is called "value-image juxtaposition." This is when the value of the gatekeeper gets transitioned to the newcomer. Advertisers understand this as any new product in marketing is often pitched by someone they think holds value in the greater community. That is why we see celebrities, or athletes pitching products. The advertisers are betting on value-image juxtaposition.
In this regard finding a gatekeeper becomes a community building strategy. So, how will we know who might be a good gatekeer. Again, social science and psychology might help. In our work, we know that people more willing to connect with folks who might be different tend to be social risk-takers, who have a greater sense of emotional intelligence. These types of people are usually "right brained," in that they reach out more and seem to be more people oriented.
Now neuroscience teaches us that our brains are bifurcated with the left side controlling precision, logic, and caution; and the right side being more macroscopic, imaginative, and emotional. So if we are not sure about whether someone would be a positive gatekeeper we can observe how they behave and get some clues.
Another little exercise you can do right now, to see what side of the brain influences you, is to take your hands, and bring them together quickly, interlocking your fingers as you do this, repeating quickly 3 or 4 times. On the 4 sequence stop with your fingers interlocked, and observe which thumb is on top. If it is your left thumb, then you are likely more "right brained" and are probably a good candidate to be a gatekeeper.
To look more at gatekeepers, check out my website, or go to www.buildingsocialcapital.org.