Considering Community: The Connect-Align-Produce network model for social-impact networks

Social in silico includes a series of occasional posts focused on community management tips and related information. I’m tagging these Considering Community and you can find all the posts in the series here

For regular online communities, such as those hosted by an organisation, we looked at the four stage model of the community lifecycle described in Rich Millington’s “Buzzing Communities”. Last week, we considered a different type of community – a social-impact network where the emphasis is on group members working together for a social good. In “Connecting to Change the World”, the authors discuss three different stages of a social-impact network – and how it’s possible to transition between them. Let’s consider this connect-align-produce model.

Continue reading

Emergence in communities – from quorum sensing in bacteria to human cohorts

I got into an interesting conversation recently at a conference about what “emergence” looks like in practice. It’s one of those words that’s being increasingly used to describe the power of communities to self-organise (e.g. “emergence over authority” is one of the chapters of Whiplash by Joi Ito of Media Lab). And yet I hadn’t fully appreciated how emergence plays out in groups. At least, until I realised that emergence is what I was working on as a graduate student – without ever describing it in those terms.

My biochemistry research focused on quorum sensing in bacteria – a mechanism by which a group of bacteria of the same species coordinate to produce a compound at high population density that’s not seen when the same bugs exist at a lower density. The specific compound produced varies with the type of bacteria – sometimes it’s a pigment, others an antibiotic, or a specific set of enzymes. But essentially, quorum sensing is about how bacteria communicate as a group to decide when to make this population-dependent chemical. So I often joke that my interests in collaborative behaviour took the long route from studying uni-cellular organisms to multi-cellular ones! 

Emergence in bacteria – a lightbulb moment!
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/252308050/

Continue reading

Community Manager musings: change agents by another name?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

Last week I attended a super workshop on netweaving within and among STEM education networks – learning much about the literature and terminology of netweaving in the process.

From all I heard, netweavers are analogous to community managers with many skills and theories in common – just with different terms and disciplines (more on that need for synthesis across fields in another post).

I thought this description of the traits of a netweaver by Bruce Goldstein was particularly helpful for adding another layer to how we think about the people who build networks within science. Netweavers are:

  • experimental
  • comfortable with uncertainty
  • hungry for change
  • want to be a disruptive force from within

I particularly like how this list highlights traits that can be found in those people pushing for culture change, while working within established systems. We spent a lot of time during the mid-year meeting of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows talking about organisational structures and the challenges of negotiating culture change so the idea that the above traits are necessary in a community manager makes a lot of sense to me.

Do you identify yourself in this list of traits? Is there anything missing? Can all community managers also be described as change agents?

Community Manager musings: A web of skills “held in tension”, rather than a skills wheel?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the skills and traits that make a community manager. It’s a challenging role to define because it combines tactical, deliberate actions with emotionally and culturally sensitive leadership. Last week, at a netweaving workshop for those building networks of STEM educators, I learned about this skills web by Bev Wegner-Trayner.

Social learning leadership skills web by Bev Wegner-Trayner. Original version here: http://wenger-trayner.com/all/social-learning-leadership/

 

Continue reading

Considering Community: The four stages of the community lifecycle

Considering Community: The four stages of the community lifecycle

Social in silico includes a series of occasional posts focused on community management tips and related information. I’m tagging these Considering Community and you can find all the posts in the series here.

This post first appeared on the Trellis blog.

Building online communities can be hard. Maybe you start a discussion and nothing happens – silence. Or maybe last week saw lots of conversation but this week you’re back to worrying that you’re talking to yourself. Combine that with the lack of training and resources for community managers and you can be left confused about what to do to help your community activate and grow.

One of the resources that I’ve used a lot at Trellis is the four-stage lifecycle model presented in Rich Millington’s book, “Buzzing Communities”. Millington’s model is based on a systematic review by Iriberri and Leroy which synthesized the results of 27 papers about online communities to create a model for how online communities progress. This lifecycle model is key if you’re a community manager because it explains clearly what to expect at each stage – and what you should be doing to move things along to the next.

Continue reading

Moving beyond rigidity and chaos in communities – some thoughts on integration

One of the keynote talks at the Mindful Leadership Summit that I attended in early November was by neuroscientist Dan Siegel. Siegel is particularly interested in the subject of integration, a topic I’d like to explore a little here.

Integration is a healthy state within a system where there is neither too much rigidity, nor chaos. Take for example a choir (and example Siegel also uses in his books). There may be multiple different voices in the choir, and different notes being sung at any given moment – so there’s differentiation within the group rather than a homogeneous mass of identical components. But the contributions of each member of the group are coordinated – they understand where one note relates to the note that another is singing (rather than rigidly sounding out their own melody in isolation). And so the result is a pleasant song rather than a clashing, dissonant jumble.

Which got me thinking about online communities. In talking with with many folks recently about what they use as the definition of a community, lots of them said some variant of “a group with common interests, or a shared goal”. So is integration within a community when the members feel as though they are aligned with the goals and interests? In this context, rigidity might be opposing one another’s opinions and suggestions or perhaps refusing to evolve with the changing environment in which the community exists (refusing new members, not adopting new tools etc). The opposite of this, chaos, may be a community that has not yet settled on a shared purpose or set of interests and perhaps is trying to cover too many topics, or not sharing information about activities in a way that members feel they are able to understand and participate consistently.

To what extent does a community manager play the role of “integrator” – helping each individual to make sense of the overall community, perhaps like a choirmaster or a conductor might do in a musical context? And to what extent do other members take on this role? How do the technical features of the online community promote or inhibit integration – for example, if a newsfeed algorithm is showing different activities to different members of a community, do they end up with such contrasting perspectives about the community that that don’t feel integrated with it?

I’d be curious to hear how you’ve handled this in the communities that you belong to and work with. How do you enable individuals to feel differentiated (and valuable in their own right) while also being aware of others around them and striving to interact with others in a meaningful way?