I posted a question in the com-prac yahoo group. Besides replies, I got a pointer to the book Net Work by Patti Anklam, which I just finished reading. The book deals with various networks, and hence with a wider topic than communities of practice. I found it quite useful to look at communities as networks, as that is what they are in the basis.
Patti Anklam makes a distinction between planned triggers, discovered triggers, dynamic triggers and asymmetric triggers for change in a network. Whether planned or emergent, a resilient network will be able to manage the context of transformation by leveraging its core strength. So it depends on each network, whether it can deal with change. This necessary resilience can be built by:
- Commitment to a common purpose, but that purpose is also subject to reflection and generative dialogue
- A structure that is appropriate to its purpose and monitored
- Support for energetic and trusted interactions
- Clarity about stakeholders, investments and outcomes
Changes within a network can involve the structure, style or value-creating processes (finding the right balance between tangible and intangible exchanges) of the network.
Many replies came from Miguel Cornejo, in one case an ex-leader/moderator became a common user of the online community. He disagreed with changes in public. I take this as an important lesson that former leaders should welcome changes and not stick to the past. In another situation, they took care to do induction of a new team one by one, to allow for a gentle transition and this worked. John Smith thought that it's important to keep two out of three elements stable. (the elements being community, domain, practice). So when you change leadership you try to keep community practice and topics the same.
A quote of Miguel I liked: " But always, a moderator/facilitator/convenor lends part of his/her character to the way the community does things. They make part of the CoP "personality"so when they depart it's bound to affect the CoP, in bigger or smaller things, sooner or later."
Miguel got inspired to write a blogpost with a metaphore with sandcastles, you are encouraged to check it out here. Any fixed structure that doesn't evolve with its environment gets washed away. Communities too, need continuous tending and rebuilding.
When I look at the ecollaboration community, it continues to flourish and grow, and we are comfortable with smaller changes that are underway. So it has withstood the test of being resilient enough to manage this transition. Though it took a bit of letting go to step out of the facilitator role, it is very rewarding to see it continue like this.