Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Building healthy communities

Richard McDermott write the cover story of inside knowledge on the topic of building healthy communities. A three years in-depth assessment was undertaken in a dozen companies to look at mature communities. Interestingly, old thinking about CoPs was that goals and deliverables woud inhibit people's openess and that communities needed to evolve on their own over time. However, the study found that many communities without organisational support fade away. Most of the healthy communities are more like 'official' organisational structures.

Key characteristics of healthy communities were consistent across the various industries studied. Following are some characteristics:
  • Most active communities are also highly valued by their organisations
  • Projects, goals and deliverables give a community something specific to organise around
  • Healthy communities have enthusiastic, active, energised leaders, spending between 10-25% of their time engaged in community activities
  • Leader activities include facilitating meetings, handling logistics, networking among members and networking among sponsors
  • Healthy communities have a core group of active members
  • They have a clear sense of making progress, even if goals are informally formulated, which energises the community
  • Healthy communities are far from the margins of a company even though management attention can easily inhibit community development.
  • Some communities are developing the organisation's knowledge assets

I think this is interesting, as I also encounter the belief that communities should be left alone in organisations. What I observe is that this marginalizes them, because there is no attention for learning from the community of practice. For inter-organisational communities (as I'm now mostly engaged with) it is even less likely that an organisation is closely involved. Though this may create the space for authentic development, is can also be interpreted as lack of interest in the domain of the community. Good to read the whole paper, it is not very long and gives a very pragmatic insight in communities within companies.


Martin said...

Hi Joke,

interesting article. Thanks!

- Martin

Stephen said...

Hello. interesting article!!

Joitske Hulsebosch said...

He Stephen, nice to 'see' you show up here! How are things in Tamale and with NINS? Did you manage to ship the computers finally?

josien said...

heartening, this plea for "official support", in our guus work. (the start-up team gets paid for its work, and we discussed whether that is a good thing or not)