Thursday, June 08, 2006

Communities of practice: Naava's example of the role of a facilitator

Naava Frank posted a comment on lurkers and I asked her if I could repost it. (thanks!). I liked the story as it demonstrates the role of a CoP facilitator (or weaver as she call it) in connecting people and stimulating private exchanges within the CoP, not only public- for all- meetings or discussions.

Below is a story from my work about a lurker who becomes a former lurker. The lesson I take from this is: Systematically reaching out to peripheral members of a community may have unexpected positive outcomes.

The Lurker
I was seated at a national conference session eight months after the HoS (Heads of School)community had formed, and a man came in and sat down in the seat next to me. When I looked at his name tag, I noted that he belonged to the one school in the area that had not participated in the HoS community to date. I had recently reached out to that school by making a call to a staff person who was not listed as the primary contact for the school but who had been identified by a friend as a promising audience. I introduced myself to the man at the session and asked him if he was familiar with our work, to which he responded:“I am a lurker. It looks like things are really moving along nicely.”He explained to me that he did not want to take the formal position of the primary contact, the Head of School, because someone else was currently holding that position. I mentioned that there were members of the HoS community who held other titles at their schools. He mentioned that he had talked to a friend about the CoP and about his hesitation to attend because of the potential issues of competition between his school and others, and that his friend had encouraged him to try it out. It was quite evident in our conversation that he had been reading the materials I was sending to him over the course of the HoS community’s development. This man was quite engaged with the community, though he had not to date attended any group events.

I saw the Lurker at another session at that same conference and introduced him to my co-weaver, and we all agreed to have lunch together. Over soup and salad, he filled us in on what was going on with his school. He told us about its special and unusual warmth and that he was working on how to grow and professionalize the school without losing that warmth. I asked what would be helpful to him in doing that and he said he would like to speak with “someone who has done it - or an expert.”I was impressed by his decisiveness and sophistication. As I sipped on my soup, I noticed at the table ahead of me another head from Boston, D, a very thoughtful and articulate man who had been through a similar process and who is very generative. After lunch, I introduced them and they exchanged contact information. A point of interest about this pair, and about the relationships that are often developed through Communities of Practice, is that the two men have very different backgrounds, coming from different religious streams.

Less than two weeks later I received the following email from the “former” Lurker: I met last night with B and had a nice chat over dinner. Thanks for the connection.

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