Originally posted 06-Feb-20

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Social collaboration enables users to enhance content, build communities of practice, and share and reuse knowledge. In this second part of a three-part series, I’ll discuss communities of practice.

Communities are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic — and deepen their understanding and knowledge of this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. Members can share information, ask and answer questions, and find expertise and resources by posting and replying within the community.

Communities are fundamental to connecting people with related interests so they can share with one another, innovate, reuse each other’s ideas, collaborate, and learn together. Starting a community is an excellent first step in launching a knowledge management initiative and can be used as a building block for more elaborate functionality.

Communities enable knowledge to flow between people. Community members:

  • Share new ideas, lessons learned, proven practices, insights, and practical suggestions.
  • Innovate through brainstorming, building on each other’s ideas, and keeping informed on emerging developments.
  • Reuse solutions through asking and answering questions, applying shared insights, and retrieving posted material.
  • Collaborate through threaded discussions, conversations, and interactions.
  • Learn from other members of the community; from invited guest speakers about successes, failures, case studies, and new trends; and through mentoring.

Building Communities using TARGETs

Communities can be created, led, and supported using TARGETs: Types, Activities, Requirements, Goals, Expectations, Tools.

Types can be used for describing communities, creating a community directory, and helping users readily navigate to the communities which interest them. There are five categories which can be used to describe and organize communities: TRAIL — Topic, Role, Audience, Industry, Location

  • Topic (e.g., Enterprise Applications, Cloud Computing)
  • Role (e.g., Project Management, Software Development)
  • Audience (e.g., Recruits, Women)
  • Industry (e.g., Manufacturing, Telecommunications) or Client (e.g., European Union, US Federal Government)
  • Location (e.g., US, UK)

Activities should be used to explain to community members what it means to be a member of a community and how they should participate. There are five ways community members should participate: SPACE — Subscribe, Post, Attend, Contribute, Engage

  • Subscribe: Get email, RSS, or mobile notifications and regularly read a threaded discussion board
  • Post: Start a new thread or reply in a threaded discussion board
  • Attend: Participate in community events
  • Contribute: Submit content to the community newsletter, blog, wiki, or site
  • Engage: Ask a question, make a comment, or give a presentation

Requirements should be used to decide if a community should be created and if it is likely to succeed. There are five elements that communities need: SMILE — Subject, Members, Interaction, Leaders, Enthusiasm

  • Subject: A specialty to learn and/or collaborate about
  • Members: People interested in the subject
  • Interaction: Meetings, calls, and discussions
  • Leaders: People passionate about the subject who are dedicated to creating, building, and sustaining a community
  • Enthusiasm: Motivation to engage and spend time collaborating and/or learning about the subject

Goals should be set for communities and progress against those goals should be measured and reported. Unhealthy communities should either be nurtured back to health or retired. There are five ways to measure the success of a COP program: PATCH — Participation, Anecdotes, Tools, Coverage, Health

  • Participation: % of target population which is a member of at least one community
  • Anecdotes: % of communities displaying success stories on their sites
  • Tools: % of communities having all five key tools (see below)
  • Coverage: % of desired topics covered by at least one community
  • Health: % of communities meeting the criteria for healthy communities

Expectations should be set for community leaders to define their role and to ensure that communities are nurtured. There are five tasks for community leaders: SHAPE– Schedule, Host, Answer, Post, Expand

  • Schedule: Line up speakers and set up events
  • Host: Initiate and run conference calls, webinars, and face-to-face meetings
  • Answer: Ensure that questions in the threaded discussion board receive replies, that discussions are relevant, and that behavior is appropriate
  • Post: Share information which is useful to the members by posting to the community site, threaded discussion board, blog, and/or newsletter
  • Expand: Attract new members, content contributions, and threaded discussion board posts

Tools should support member interaction. There are five key tools for communities: SCENT — Site, Calendar, Events, News, Threads

  • Site: home page — for reaching new members and sharing information with current ones
  • Calendar: of community events — for promoting interaction
  • Events: meetings, conference calls, webinars — for interacting personally
  • News: newsletter or blog — for ongoing communications and publicity
  • Threads: threaded discussion board — for interacting virtually

In the third and final part of this series, I will discuss sharing and reusing knowledge.

Read my posts for Lucidea’s Think Clearly blog and my articles and presentations about communities of practice and community management.

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