The Role of the Facilitator in Building and Sustaining Communities of Practice

I have the honour of being invited to present at the XIII Seminari Compartim L’e-moderador i altres nous agents de coneixement a les organitzacions on 21st September 2011. The event is sponsored by Generaliti de Cataluña, centre d’Estudis Juridics, I Formacio Especialitzada.

This post is a brief preamble to my presentation.

Background

My experience of knowledge sharing in organizations stems mainly from my involvement in setting up Communities of Practice (CoPs) for UK local government. This was part of a broader Knowledge Management strategy that I was commissioned to deliver for the Improvement and Development Agency (now part of Local Government Group -LGG). An online collaboration platform was launched in 2006 to support self-organizing, virtual communities of local government and other public sector staff. The purpose was to improve public sector services by sharing knowledge and good practice.

Over the past 5 years, the community platform has grown to support over 1.500 CoPs, with more than 100,000 registered users.  This has lead to many service improvement initiatives, from more efficient procurement and project planning to more effective inter-agency collaboration in delivering front-line services, such as health and social care. It has also provided some useful information on the dynamics of social collaboration and community management, e.g. the factors that influence the success of a community.

What does a successful CoP look like?

Success will of course depend on the purpose of the community. Some CoPs have been set up as networks for learning and sharing; others have a defined output, e.g. developing new practice for adult social care.  It is clearly more difficult to establish success criteria for a CoP dedicated to knowledge sharing than it is for – say – a CoP that has a tangible output. Success for the former will rely on more subjective analysis than for the latter, where there will probably be more tangible evidence of an output, e.g. a policy document or case study.

However, rather than argue and debate the criteria for assessing the “success” of a CoP (or other organizational learning system), I’d prefer to consider how we monitor and assess the “health” of a CoP. For this approach I think we have to consider the analogy of a CoP to a living and breathing organism.

A healthy CoP will show clear signs of life; this can be assessed using various quantitative indicators, such as:

  • Number of members
  • Rate of growth of the community
  • Number and frequency of documents uploaded.
  • Number and frequency of documents read or downloaded.
  • Number and frequency of new blog posts
  • Number and frequency of forum posts
  • Number and frequency of comments
  • Number of page views per session
  • Time spent on the CoP per browser session

…etc.

Not that any one of these indicators in isolation will indicate the good health of a CoP, but taken together they can give a general perspective of how vibrant and active the community is.

Continuing with the analogy of a living, breathing organism, different CoPs will have different metabolisms, some may be highly active; others may be fairly sedate. Understanding the community ‘rhythm’ is a key aspect of knowing when any intervention is required in order to maintain this rhythm.  Not all CoPs are going to be vibrant and active all of the time; there may be periods of relative inactivity as a natural part of the CoP lifecycle. But it’s important to know the difference between a CoP that is going through a regular period of inactivity and a CoP that is moribund.

A point to note: inactive CoPs may not necessarily be a cause for concern. One reason for inactivity could be that the CoP has served its purpose and its members have moved on. In which case the knowledge assets of the CoP need to be published and celebrated and the CoP either closed, or (with the agreement of the members) re-purposed to a new topic or outcome.

So, understanding the vital life-signs and metabolism of a CoP is a fundamental part of ensuring the continued good health of the CoP, and therefore more likely to achieve its goals.  And the key to the continued good health of a CoP is knowing how and when to intervene when one or more of the life-signs begins to falter.  Without wishing to labour my analogy of the living, breathing organism too much, it’s the equivalent of knowing when someone is not feeling too well and administering the appropriate medicine. [See concluding section for symptoms and potential cures for an ailing CoP.]

The Online Facilitator/e-Moderator

Where does the CoP facilitator or e-moderator come into all of this? Well, I mentioned earlier that over the 5 years since its inception, the Local Government CoP strategy has provided some useful information on the dynamics of social collaboration and community management. For example, there is clear evidence that the CoPs that have full or part-time facilitation/e-moderation are much more likely to succeed than those that rely entirely on self-organization, and/or where there are no clearly defined roles or responsibilities.

The most successful CoPs (and I should clarify here that I’m using “success’ to mean “in good health”) are those where there is more than one facilitator/e-moderator and where interventions by the facilitator/e-moderator are frequent and predictable.  This may take various forms, such as regular polls of the CoP members; regular e-bulletins or newsletters; a schedule of events (face to face or virtual); regular input to Forum posts and threads, seeding new conversations; back-channeling to make connections between members of the CoP; etc.

In other words, show me a good and effective CoP facilitator/e-moderator and I can show you – in all probability – a healthy and successful CoP (or similar organizational knowledge sharing community).

The Role and Responsibilities

I’ve often been asked “what makes a good community facilitator/e-moderator?” This is a difficult one, and I’m of the opinion that it is more of an art than a science. The technical administration functions of the role can be taught, but the good facilitators/e-moderators that I have met bring another dimension to the role, i.e. empathy with, and understanding of, human behaviours and personalities. Something that I suspect comes with experience rather than a pedagogical approach. What I do think is important is having some knowledge (not necessarily ‘expert’ status) and enthusiasm for the topic or theme of the CoP (also referred to as the ‘domain of knowledge’).  This will help where interventions are necessary, and the community members are more likely to appreciate the facilitator/e-moderator as one of their own.

There have been various papers and blogs published about the role and responsibilities of an online CoP facilitator or e-Moderator, but maybe the following diagram captures the essence of the role.

Facilitator Role
Facilitator Role

(click to enlarge)

(Diagram re-worked from an original by Dion Hinchcliffe)

Conclusion

In conclusion, and continuing with my theme of ‘health’ in relation to organizational knowledge systems, such as CoPs, the following is a summary of the symptoms and suggested interventions for an ailing CoP . This has been adapted from some original work by Patti Anklam, and informed by Michael Norton at Local Government Group (see Acknowledgements).

Community Health Checks

As mentioned earlier, the life cycle of a community will be subject to a particular rhythm, which can vary from CoP to CoP. Understanding this rhythm will help inform if and when specific interventions are necessary.

Participation can wane; the number of posts slow down; fewer people show up; only a few people are generating plans for the next activity. But not all lapses in content and contribution mean a community’s life is over. In many cases, some specific diagnosis and actions can reinvigorate a community.

Identifying the Symptoms

The “actions” in the table below are suggested primarily for community facilitators/e-moderators but in fact any CoP member can take the initiative to rejuvenate the community.

Symptom Actions
No participation or activity.

No new documents or links posted.

No new discussion threads, announcements or news.

Post new content, requesting feedback and comments to elicit new conversation.Remind people to set alerts for the site.

Talk to members to find out what people are working on and ask people what they would like to see on it.

Activity only by a few people. Call or email members who haven’t participated for a while; find out why they haven’t been participating. Use those conversations to elicit new content and encourage contribution.Also be sure that the people who are not contributing understand how to use the tools. Never assume that tools are “intuitive” to everyone, or that everyone understands how to use them.
People use email instead of posting questions and discussions on the CoP. The email habit is a hard one to break. If the goal of the community is to capture all the relevant discussions for future use, then the community facilitator needs to take a strong stand with members.One way to do this is to make a public statement that no questions sent by individual email will be answered, but that questions posted to the community will always be answered in set time. Another approach is to respond to all email questions by asking the requestor to post the question in the forum.
Sudden drop in discussions where there was previous activity. If there was a lot of active discussion and then it quickly dies out. Review the postings for potential “flaming”.  Edit the discussion threads to remove inappropriate comments (and state that you have done so). Speak with the people who have posted and clarify the norms for participation of the community.
Another community is focused on the same topic. If the members of the other community are current or previous members of your community, talk to them about why the community isn’t meeting their needs. If they do want to take a specific focus, then be sure that you have set up cross-linkages to the other community sites, and are referring people back and forth as needed.If the new community consists of people who are not participating in the current community, ask some of the same questions. See if there is sufficient overlap that the new community might be better managed as a Sub – CoP of the current site or a merger between the communities.


Reinvigoration

Community facilitation/e-moderation is about creating and sustaining relationships, not just the facilitators’/e-moderator’s relationships with the individual members, but the members’ relationships among themselves. Reinvigorating the community involves restoring “social capital” to the community in a way that motivates and encourages people to re-engage and commit. The table below lists some practical interventions – things you can do to alter the current dynamics – that can have a positive impact on the community.

Reinvigoration of Communities

Intervention Potential Impact on Community
Request sponsor support. Talk to the sponsors of the community.If the sponsor expects the community to be collaborating and operating as a community, ask them to show some visible support to the community, invite them to participate, or to spend time with the community reviewing the community site and making suggestions and providing resources to support it.
Informal get-togethers (face-to-face or virtual). Face to face (or online or phone) meetings can range from very informal to highly formal and structured. It’s important to give people a reason to show up – but once people are together they have the opportunity to make or renew acquaintance, find topics of common interest, and share recent experiences.
Communicate more frequently. Create a “newsletter” that consists of items describing what may (or may not) be happening in the community, but also what different community members may be doing. You may need to call or get in touch directly with a number of individuals to elicit their “news.”
Back channelling. A personal phone call (or a meeting) is a good way to connect one-on-one to find out people’s concerns or to hear what might be in the way of participation. For example, a community member may not be getting support from his/her manager to participate.
Invite new members. Often the way to move a community from a “stuck” to a state of activity is to introduce new members who are more outgoing, or who will ask a lot of questions of existing members.New members introduce new ideas, alter some of the behaviour patterns and bring new connections and knowledge into the group
Have a guest speaker (Hotseat). Bringing new ideas from outside speakers often helps a community to shift its thinking and generate new ideas.  This idea can be adapted into an online event in which people from multiple disciplines are invited to contribute to a topic over a period of time.
Change the community purpose. If a community has “run out of steam,” it may be time to retire the community (with celebration!), and move on to something new.Often if a community has built a lot of social capital and wants to stay together, they can decide on a new topical area to focus on, and create a new community or repurpose the existing community.
Develop facilitation/e-moderation skills. If a goal of the community is to engage in discussions and there is little activity, it might be good to find out how others facilitators/e-moderators go about this.  Join one of the growing number of groups and communities of facilitators/e-moderators, or do a bit of ‘crowd sourcing’ on Twitter, Facebook or other social networks for answers to specific questions. If you can’t find a suitable community of facilitators/e-moderators, consider starting one for your organization!

Acknowledgements

Steve Dale
Director
Collabor8now Ltd

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Building and Nurturing On-Line Communities – Batteries Not Included

Much has been written about best practice for developing and nurturing on-line communities , such as Communities of Practice (CoP), and the accepted wisdom is that technology by itself – no matter how good – will NOT deliver vibrant and successful communities. “Build it and they won’t come”  should be the mantra, as Google Wave so amply demonstrated (and I know this was not an on-line community in its purest sense before I get flamed!).

I’ve previously tried to illustrate this using the analogy of baking a cake, where the cake’s ingredients e.g. sugar, butter, flour, eggs, milk are the component parts of an on-line community. To bake a really good cake you need all of these ingredients; missing out any one of them can result in something which either looks or tastes nothing like a cake.

cake-ingredientsSimilarly missing out one of the ingredients in an on-line community will lead to potential failure of the community. Clearly some ingredients will be key, e.g. technology is going to be pretty important if it’s an on-line community! Members/users are important because they ARE the community. But let’s not forget the other ingredients, such as the community facilitator (also variously known as the community manager, steward or moderator) the business sponsor, the subject matter experts, the mentors, the librarians etc. Some of these roles may be combined, but the functions they perform are distinct. But I want concentrate on the role and function of the community facilitator, for I would argue that this role is the difference between the success and failure of an on-line community (and especially a CoP), and I have the empirical evidence to prove it!

For any prior readers of this blog you will know I had (and still have) a key role in the development of the local government on-line community platform. Currently over 65,000 registered users and 1,300 CoPs.  Using various metrics available on the platform, I can clearly see the correlation between a successful community and the capability of the facilitator. If this role is so important to the health of the community, what skills and attributes are needed to be a successful facilitator? I’m still not entirely sure, though I do know it’s not a case of just providing some training, although this does help. It’s more about personality; enthusiasm; willingness to share; being sensitive to the community environment; and energy! Lots and lots of energy. Not the sort of things you can learn or teach using a pedagogical approach. I recall co-hosting a community facilitator’s story-telling session using the excellent Anecdote story-telling guidelines. We got ten or so of the LG Improvement and Development (previously IDeA) exemplar community facilitators together to share their experience of what worked so that we could perhaps identify some key lessons that could be shared with all the other community facilitators. One recurrent theme was how hard they worked at making the community successful.  There was nothing really unique or special that they were doing, other than putting energy and enthusiasm into their role. They believed in the goals for their community and worked at helping the community achieve them.

So, coming back to my original theme: what makes a successful on-line community? The community facilitator is the answer, and though it’s clear we need some useful technology to support an on-line environment, that alone will not deliver success. If you will excuse me for switching metaphors, an on-line community (CoP) without a good facilitator is like have having a battery-driven toy without the batteries –  and hence the title of this blog post. This concept is supported by the accompanying slides, developed for a recent IBM webinar hosted and arranged by my good friend and colleague Luis Suarez (@elsua) and available for download from Slideshare.

To conclude, a brief story about a recent response to a proposal I received from a large government body who wanted a cost effective solution to improving knowledge sharing for their dispersed staff. There was a limited budget, and I identified a fairly low-cost collaborative technology solution that was well within the available budget. However, I also included a dependency on having a community facilitator/manager to ensure the success of this nascent community. Unfortunately the cost of the community facilitator/manager was more than twice the cost of the technology, and consequently the solution was starting to look expensive and unlikely to be accepted and implemented by the client. Yes, I could have just quoted the cost of the technology and then left them to get on with it, but then again, I’m not a technology vendor and I don’t believe in perpetuating the myth that technology delivers successful on-line communities. It would have been like leaving them with a battery-driven product but not telling them that the batteries were not included!

I hope the slides are useful for anyone involved in bulding and sustaining on-line communities – and if you happen to be a community facilitator, you have my utmost respect!

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Communities of Practice: Conversations to Collaboration

I’ve was pleased to be invited to do a keynote presentation at the NHS eSpace Coordinators conference earlier this month.  I wanted to emphasise the importance of the Coordinator’s role in building trust within a Community of Practice (CoP), and as a catalyst for turning conversations into active collaboration.  I should note that I’m more familiar the term ‘Community Facilitator’, for this role, and have used the term ‘facilitator’ and ‘coordinator’ to mean the same thing, i.e. the person or people who support, manage and guide the CoP members in achieving their goals. Perhaps a better description for this role is ‘community cultivators’,  since it is they who provide the conditions for the CoP to grow and flourish.

I can’t over-emphasise enough the importance of this role and the people who perform it. The difference between a vibrant and successful CoP and one that meanders aimlessly with little or no contributions is down to the facilitator (or coordinator, moderator, cultivator). Members of the CoP have been sufficiently motivated to join the CoP; it is up to the facilitator to inspire the members to connect, collaborate and co-create.  I tip my hat to all of those who do this successfully, and quite often without due recognition or reward. Something I hope will change as more and more organisations are turning to this way of working and have realised that technology alone does not provide a successful learning and sharing environment.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who is willing to share examples of how active facilitation (e.g. guided learning) has helped their CoP, and/or what makes a successful Facilitator.

The slides are available for download from Slideshare, and reproduced below:


Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Identifying Community of Practice Needs

Community and FacilitorOne of the things we have learnt from the development and use of the IDeA Community of Practice Platform is that a CoP can have different needs, dependent on the stage in their life cycle and their primary purpose. The role and importance of the facilitators (or moderators) in these communities cannot be overemphasised since they must ensure that the needs of the CoP are understood in order to create the appropriate environment for achieving their CoP’s goals and objectives.

The following table identifies various needs of a CoP, dependent on its primary purpose. A CoP could go through all of these various categories of need during its life-cycle. Successful facilitators will be in tune with the changing needs of their CoPs, and will provide the required support and facilities to meet these needs.

How does a facilitator know what his/her community needs at any particular point in time? Through continual engagement with community members and regular member surveys.

COMMUNITY NEEDS

Helping needs

Where members help each other to solve day-to-day issues and experts can be invited in to help.

Best practice needs

Where developing and disseminating best practice, guidelines and procedures issued to provide instant access to validated and up to date knowledge and information.

  • connecting people
  • increasing exchange of lessons learnt and good practice
  • building trust
  • seeking new understanding of developments and implementations
  • creating a forum to support requests for help and assistance
  • collaborating to develop, consult and validate practice
  • creating an environment to share, assess value and disseminate good ideas
  • publishing and disseminating specific practices
  • creating self-help functions
  • verifying effectiveness and benefit of practice
  • accelerating collaboration across organisations or a specialism
  • accelerating the speed of quality decision making and implementation of best practice
  • strengthening networks and improving employee relations
  • Achieve higher standards in projects, strategies and improving outcomes
  • facilitating professional peer learning and drawing from expert knowledge and experience
  • enlisting leading experts

Knowledge Stewarding needs

Where there is a need to organise, manage and steward a body of knowledge from which members can draw.

Innovation needs

Where the creation of breakthrough ideas, knowledge and practices is paramount

  • creating a shared understanding of issues
  • creating a safe and trusted environment where innovation can take place
  • providing instant access to knowledge and information in an organised and intuitive way
  • supporting creative, experimental, multi-disciplinary and cross boundary working
  • accessing collective and vetted knowledge that is managed, summarised and up to date
  • sharing and developing expert knowledge and thinking
  • bring together timely and relevant knowledge and information
  • developing innovative practices
  • providing quick and easy access to up to date news, publications, websites and practice in one place
  • accelerating the rate of innovation through sharing and testing out ideas
  • increasing opportunities for self-help and personal development
  • providing opportunities to approach and work with new technologies, new business and new approaches
  • collaborating to increase the productivity of ideas and knowledge
  • providing channels to support the development of new ideas and ways of working
  • helping with leadership issues
  • sharing warnings and deciphering trends
Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Community of Practice Facilitators Workshop

We had a very good day at the IDeA Community of Practice Facilitator’s Workshop on Friday 11th April. These are regular (bi-annual) events where we get the CoP facilitators (and several guests) together to share knowledge and experience of facilitating one or more of the 300+ CoPs now active across local government.

The day was organised and facilitated by a team from the IDeA, led by Michael Norton, who interestingly enough has just put his toe in the water and started his own blog. I’m sure he’ll have lots of valuable things to say about his specialist area – knowledge management.

Socialreporter David Wilcox was there with an eye on proceedings and video camera at the ready. David did a video interview with Michael Norton and me, but not quite sure where this will appear (note – since posted here). David is also trialling video streaming using QIK and his new S60 Nokia so we’ll look out for some instant video commentary next time!

Hot air balloons

One of the key themes for the day was how to make a CoP fly. We used the analogy of the CoP being a hot air balloon, and the need to ensure it could gain sufficient height to cross a mountain range. The injections of hot air being the various activities that a facilitator could take to keep the CoP flying. There’s a useful article over at Knowledge Board about this.

We also had a video from Nancy White, who has been chairing a hotseat in the Facilitators CoP for the past two weeks on the topic: Are our assumptions about sustaining groups online out of date in the network era?

My personal interest was in listening to the stories ‘from the coal face’, i.e. the experiences of the various facilitators. I have a role as technical steward for the CoP platform, so I want to make sure that the technology is meeting the needs of the facilitators and ordinary members, and that future developments are keeping pace with how the platform is being used. I briefly covered what was being planned for next phase of development, and fortunately the new features seemed to be consistent with what users were asking for. However, I was a bit surprised at how some people were using blogs – not as I had anticipated in that they would be associated with personal comment and promotion on what is happening in a CoP, but in some cases as the vehicle for collecting and distributing confidential CoP comments and documents to just the members of the private CoP. My plans for changing the blog facility from being just internal to each CoP to more of a platform-wide facility to encourage more inter-CoP communication and collaboration may have to be reviewed – though I still think this is a valid need.

Overall it was a very successful day, with lots of useful tips interchanged on how to keep that CoP flying. The benefit of all these type of events is the realisation that you have colleagues out there facing similar issues to you, and can draw on the collective knowledge and experience of a growing cohort of facilitators.

There were a few quotes I will remember:

“I’m not sure that we have permission to innovate in our organisation”

I’d like to think that CoPs do empower people to make change, but the heavy hand of command and control is still evident in many organisations, and could in some cases snuff out that spark of innovation that is in all of us.

“Someone read and commented on my first blog! I got a real buzz out of that – it’s not an ego trip or anything, I’m just so pleased that someone thought I had something interesting to say”

Yes, let’s have more of that!

“We’re all learning together; IDeA does not have all the answers – it’s up to us to help each other”

On that note, I went away feeling quite happy with life!

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Fostering a collaboration culture

An excellent posting from Shawn over at Anecdote about fostering a collaboration culture. A good corollary to my recent postings about what I see as growing and misplaced belief that Web 2.0 is the solution to more effective knowledge sharing. They key point I was trying to make is that technical solutions (blogs, wikis, RSS) by themselves do not create, nurture or develop learning and sharing communities, or improve engagement between government and citizens. I emphasised the importance of people in the equation, both in terms of skilled facilitators (those who support and encourage conversations and collaboration) and the willingness of the users themselves to actively engage (e.g. a shared domain of interest). Shawn refers to fostering a culture of collaboration, which I think is quite often overlooked by those who are rushing headlong into implementing Web 2.0 facilities in order to achieve better knowledge management. To put this into perspective, the investment (time, cost and support) for the ‘people and process’ side of the communities of practice being developed across local government exceeds the cost of the technology by a factor of ten or more. Furthermore, this is recurrent cost and not a one-off capital expense.

However, I’m not encouraged by recent conversations I’ve had with representatives from one or two large government departments, who seem to have a budget for progressing a collaboration strategy, which extends to implementing a technical solution (usually Sharepoint) and nothing else. To quote Shawn “I think it’s a big problem because this narrow view of collaboration starts to get the concept a bad name: “yeh, we did collaboration but no one used it.” Let’s all hope the ‘people’ message is getting home.

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Facilitation Toolkit

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

I am grateful to Hilary Messeter from the National College of School Leaders (NCSL) for agreeing to present at a recently Community of Practice workshop I co-hosted. The NCSL have created a Facilitation Toolkit for their community of over 100,000 members. This is primarily focused on communities within the education sector, but the toolkit is a great resource for anyone who is new to the world of on-line facilitation, or indeed for anyone who is currently supporting a community of practice.

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

On-line interaction and fear of the unknown

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

An excellent commentary and explanation about on-line facilitation from Nancy White over at Full Circle. Very topical for me at the moment as I begin a new contract working as Interim Head of the Information Authority, a new Secretariat sponsored by the DfES and the LSC. One of the key responsibilities for this newly established body (the Information Authority) is to balance need against burden for all information and reporting requirements across the education sector.

My initial thoughts were along the lines of establishing a facilitated stakeholder community, consisting of all interested people, groups and agencies across the further education sector, and through this ‘community’, encourage  transparency on the impact (burden) of requests for new or changed information. Typical changes are in the way that schools and colleges measure success, and change requests can originate from many different sources, from Ministers and government bodies (e.g. Ofsted) to individual schools and colleges.

However, I soon learnt there is a language issue to overcome first. My initial soundings on the concept of using an on-line community approach to evaluate, process and agree changes to data standards and reporting requirements did not go down too well, and the concept of employing on-line facilitator’s for managing change though this embryonic community was akin to talking about encounters of the third kind!

However, I’ve made some headway by making sure that instead of discussing  ‘communities’, I refer instead to ‘stakeholder collaboration’, which is going to require ‘change coordinators’ to manage discussion and connections between the stakeholders (thus, for on-line facilitator, read ‘change coordinator).

So lesson learnt here – speak the language that  people  you are working with understand.   The concepts of communities (of interest or of practice) and on-line facilitation are steps into the unknown for some people, and  anything unknown is perceived as a project risk!

More of this later when I’ve either been given the go ahead (or not) to progress with my ‘stakeholder collaboration’ and ‘change coordinator’ strategy.

My thanks to Nancy for enabling me to produce the job specification for my ‘change coordinators’ from her posting!

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest

Facilitating Communities of Practice

An interesting item in Joitske Hulsebosch’s blog today about community facilitation. It refers to a research study undertaken by Halbana Tarmizi and Gert-Jan de Vreede on two key questions:

1. What are the most difficult tasks in CoP facilitation?
2. What are the most important tasks in CoP facilitation?

The results are based on 45 people who took an online survey. The most difficult tasks were (according to facilitators with more than 5 years experience):

1. Encouraging new members to participate in the community’s activities
2. Creating and maintaining an open, positive and participative environment
3. Creating comfort with and promoting understanding of the tools and tool outputs

The most important tasks (facilitator with >5 years experience):

1. Building cooperative relationships among members
2. Keeping community focus on its purpose; creating and maintaining an open, positive and participative environment; mediating conflicts and managing community through guidelines and rules (all equally important)

Encouraging participation is still the most difficult task, and is recognised as important too.

The full research article is here: Download identifying_challenges_for_facilitation_of_cops.pdf

Feel free to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on Pinterest