Friday, November 11, 2005

Practical example: analysis questions for a community of practice of ICT4D trainers

Beth Kanter asked (by the way this is not Beth in the picture, this is the REAL Sinterklaas): What types of analysis questions would ask at the beginning of a COP project assessment? I am a bit slow in responding, because I had to figure out how to deal with comments. I'll try and respond in this post.

I was involved in a community readiness assessment for a potential community of ICT4D trainers in the south for IICD with John Smith of Learning Alliances. The idea was to assess whether it is possible to form a community of practice of trainers to ensure a continuous social learning process linked to the Itrain online website, which is full of training resources. Even though there is no single best way of doing a community readiness assessment I think it's good to share our experiences, even though the official research brief for public use is not ready yet. We did an online survey, followed by a 4-weeks online focus group discussion to deepen the findings of the survey. Amongst the main topics of the assessment were (starting from the basics of domain, community and practice):
  1. Work profile
  2. Knowledge areas
  3. Group identity in terms of expertise
  4. Ease with technologies and languages
  5. Existing networks/informal networks
  6. Interest in a community of practice and to play certain roles in the community

We did lots of brainstorming and thinking, as well as a pretest of the survey in Zambia. Looking back I would say the focus group was really an important follow-on of the survey, which helped to make the findings more dynamic and tease out some of the difficulties of nurturing such a community. Next time, a southern trainer could be part of the assessment team. As soon as the research brief is ready, I'll try and link to it. But one of the findings of the assessment which amazed me was that this group (we had a good response of almost 100 trainers) did not have such a problem with access to the net, some working over 40 hours per week with their computers (on and offline), and had lots of experiences with online discussion groups. Of course this is influenced by our method (an online survey) but nevertheless. During WSIS the partner organisations will discuss the results.

A summary of seven principles for cultivating communities of practice by Wenger, McDermott and Snyder can be found here

1 comment:

Beth said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful answer to the question!

Wow, I would love to join that particular community ...