keeping communities of practice alive

This week I find myself involved with and or facilitating four communities of practice (CoP) , two new and getting started like the Leeds Sustainability Forum and Green Drinks Lancashire ( which after the second ‘gathering’ is becoming a useful green business network) one well established like the BAE FM CoP, and the Constructing Excellence Collaborative Champions Group which is looking to move into a web 2.0 environment for communication and collaboration. And of course regular participation in the be2camp and twittering communities.

In preparation for the four CoP’s I dug out a paper from Harvard Business School that I had referred to back in 2005 when starting the FM CoP , Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice that describes and discusses approaches to evoke a community’s ‘aliveness’, to bring out its own internal direction, character, and energy:

  1. Design for evolution – Remember communities are dynamic; changes can create new demands or reshape the community; “‘Alive’ communities reflect on and redesign elements of themselves throughout their existence.”
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives – effective community design is “built on the collective experience of community members” and “brings information from outside the community into the dialogue about what the community could achieve.”
  3. Invite different levels of participation – Three main levels of community participation: a core group engaged in regular, intensive activities (usually 10-15% of the group); the active group (another 15-20%); and peripheral members, who rarely participate.
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces – “orchestrate activities in both public and private spaces that use the strength of individual relationships to enrich events and use events to strengthen individual relationships.”
  5. Focus on value – “Rather than attempting to determine their expected value in advance, communities need to create events, activities, and relationships that help their potential value emerge and enable them to discover new ways to harvest it.”
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement – “combine both familiar and exciting events so community members can develop the relationships they need to be well connected as well as generate the excitement they need to be fully engaged.”
  7. Create a rhythm for the community – Vibrant communities have a rhythm, a tempo, ideally somewhere between breathless and sluggish. “There is no right beat for all communities, and the beat is likely to change as the community evolves.”

(I should note a word of thanks to Paul at ExtranetEvolution who also blogged on this earlier)

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