Community Manager musings: Four reasons coordinators of communities of practice can fail

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

“Gah! It’s all Greek to me!” One form of failure in building a community of practice comes from lack of domain expertise.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/

Nurturing and growing a successful community of practice is a delicate balance of activities where the intention is to create a vibrant group of members interested in honing their craft in a particular domain that they share.

Communities can fail for any of a number of reasons – but in communities of practice Wenger et al., mention four key causes that are due specifically to how the community manager’s role is carried out.

  1. Time
  2. Balance between public and private spaces
  3. Pro-active networking
  4. Technical / domain knowledge

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Community Manager musings: How do you define a community manager?

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

What do you call a professional cat herder? Adapted from original image here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/1148435913/

I’ve been having a series of conversations recently about how we define community and what different types of communities look like. As people are realising that many of the programs and activities that they coordinate have community at their core, they’ve then begun to ask: am I a community manager? What defines a community manager?

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Community orientations and technology – what features does your online community need?

Recently, I’ve been exploring “Digital Habitats” by Wenger, White and Smith, which talks about the role of technology stewards in selecting, implementing and encouraging adoption of online tools and community platforms. Tech stewards sound like a very specific type of community manager.

Use this wheel to mark out the importance of the 9 different orientations to your community.
Image credit: http://technologyforcommunities.com/2010/07/putting-our-diagrams-to-work/

The book has lots of practical advice about the use of technology by communities of practice. While the overall menu of different tools and features that are available to a community may be large, typically members will not need them all because their community will be focused on only a few activities. The authors call these different types of group needs “orientations” and list out nine of them.

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Community Manager musings: Technical stewards – community managers with toolkits!

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

What’s in a community manager’s toolkit? As technology stewards they may choose, use and support multiple tools.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/elkokoparrilla/5106301020/

 

As we’ve been exploring on this blog, community managers can exist in different types of communities within science, and their role can have a variety of names, depending on what they’re doing and what kind of organisation they’re working for. In my latest reading I’ve been learning about the role of the technology steward – a term coined by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John D.Smith and described in their 2009 book, “Digital Habitats.”

Their description states that a technology steward…

“…adopts a community’s perspective to help a community choose, configure and use technologies to best serve its needs. Tech stewards attend both to what happens spontaneously and what can happen purposefully, by plan and by cultivation of insights into what actually works.”

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Considering Community: Communities of practice and double-knit knowledge organisations

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

Previously on this blog, I’ve reflected on the different types of community that I’ve observed within science and specifically in the first cohort of the community engagement fellowship program that I run at AAAS. I identified four initial broad types of scientific communities – from professional associations to communities of practice. I’m currently delving deeper into communities of practice and am enjoying reading “Cultivating communities of practice” by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder.

Today’s post looks at what it means to be a double-knit knowledge organisation – and how we integrate learnings from communities of practice into our day-to-day work.

When asked if her organisation was taking a double-knit approach to knowledge management, Jane replied “I’m a frayed knot.”
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/heartbrainscourage/25126915686/

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Considering Community: Communities of practice as vital tools for knowledge management

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

Previously on this blog, I’ve reflected on the different types of community that I’ve observed within science and specifically in the first cohort of the community engagement fellowship program that I run at AAAS. I identified four initial broad types of scientific communities – from professional associations to communities of practice. I’m currently delving deeper into communities of practice and am enjoying reading “Cultivating communities of practice” by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder.

Communities of practice and coffee – breaking down those silos one latte at a time…
Image credit: author’s own

What’s a community of practice – and what does it have to do with knowledge management?

A community of practice is a group of people who gather to learn more about a topic together and in doing so deepen their knowledge and expertise. The group may not have a specifically defined goal, but rather meet regularly to continually refine what they know about a subject. As such, communities of practice are key to knowledge management.

Wenger et al list 5 ways in which communities of practice are key to how we manage knowledge:

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Community Manager musings: Are community managers also social entrepreneurs?

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

Is this the street you’re walking down?
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dweekly/63702022/

I love this post by Seth Godin that outlines 4 traits of entrepreneurs:

1. They make decisions.

2. They invest in activities and assets that aren’t a sure thing.

3. They persuade others to support a mission with a non-guaranteed outcome.

4. This one is the most amorphous, the most difficult to pin down and thus the juiciest: They embrace (instead of run from) the work of doing things that might not work.

 

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