Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Challenges for facilitation in communities of practice

Recently I blogged about a facilitation taxonomy developed by Halbana Tarmizi en Gert-Jan de Vreede, you can find the article here.

Through a comment on a blogpost somewhere I found a follow-up on that article called challenges for facilitation in communities of practice written by the same authors, in collaboration with Ilze Zigurs. For this study they formulated two research questions:
  1. What are the most difficult tasks in CoP facilitation?
  2. What are the most important tasks in CoP facilitation?

Knowing the most difficult tasks would help facilitators and organizations to work harder on them, while knowing the most important ones might help facilitators to allocate sufficient attention to those tasks. The results are based on 45 people who took an online survey (I'm thinking I may be one of them, if it was announced at the com-prac yahoo group :).

The most difficult tasks were (according to facilitators with more than 5 years experience):

  1. Encouraging new members to participate in the community's activities
  2. Creating and maintaining an open, positive and participative environment
  3. Creating comfort with and promoting understanding of the tools and tool outputs

The most important tasks (facilitator with >5 years experience):

  1. Building cooperative relationships among members
  2. Keeping community focus on its purpose; creating and maintaining an open, positive and participative environment; mediating conflicts and managing community through guidelines and rules (all equally important)

Encouraging participation is still the most difficult task, and is recognized as important too.

The results look a little biased by online facilitators (see the third most difficult task), and that may be the focus of the article, but that could be made more explicit (if so). What are my own experiences and do I recognize this? I think encouraging participation is important, but participation in a community of practice flows from having a solid base in practice a domain that's interesting enough to a number of people. I get the feeling that it might be different whether you talk about online facilitation, face-to-face or hybrid communities of practice. Next year, Sibrenne Wagenaar and myself will write down our experiences with facilitation of the e-collaboration group. This article claims the facilitator role in communities of practice is still under-researched. So we can contribute a practical case. We are already documenting our reflection in a wiki (which reminds me I should add something to that wiki).


Tony Karrer said...

Now if you can only help us answer the participation challenge. :)

Joitske said...

Sure, no prob, just wait for the article :)

Bill Williams said...

The taxononomy looks useful, as you say Joitske, but it seems to be restricted by password access now.