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 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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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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Community Manager musings: advice for careers in community management from #TheCRConnect

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

This week I attended the Community Roundtable’s annual event, TheCR Connect. On Monday afternoon there was a great panel discussion about community management careers featuring Kristen Laaspere of Akamai, JJ Lovett of CA Technologies and Luke Sinclair of AMEX. Here are some of the key takeaways. (Any mistakes in transcription/interpretation are mine!)

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Community Manager musings: 12 attributes of “less visible” network leaders

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

“Follow me and when I say duck…”
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/1301014184/

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it is that makes community managers / network leaders unique. How do we accurately describe a role with activities that require seemingly opposed skillsets and that in many cases can also be somewhat invisible?

In his short publication “The Less Visible Leader” (free to download here), Andy Robinson lists 12 attributes of net-centric leaders that fall into three broad categories:

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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?