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Jan 20 2009

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Building communities ‘aliveness’

I said last week (Building online communities) that Martin Brown (Isite) and I will be facilitating the foundation of a new online community for AEC people focused on integrated collaborative working. Adding to the OReillynet.com guidance, Martin has emailed me an interesting 2002 article from Harvard Business School about cultivating communities of practice, written by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William Snyder. It describes seven principles to evoke a community’s ‘aliveness’, to bring out its own internal direction, character, and energy:

  1. Design for evolution – Remember communities are dynamic; changes can create new demands or reshape the community; “‘Alive’ communities reflect on and redesign elements of themselves throughout their existence.”
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives – effective community design is “built on the collective experience of community members” and “brings information from outside the community into the dialogue about what the community could achieve.”
  3. Invite different levels of participation – Three main levels of community participation: a core group engaged in regular, intensive activities (usually 10-15% of the group); the active group (another 15-20%); and peripheral members, who rarely participate.
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces – “orchestrate activities in both public and private spaces that use the strength of individual relationships to enrich events and use events to strengthen individual relationships.”
  5. Focus on value – “Rather than attempting to determine their expected value in advance, communities need to create events, activities, and relationships that help their potential value emerge and enable them to discover new ways to harvest it.”
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement – “combine both familiar and exciting events so community members can develop the relationships they need to be well connected as well as generate the excitement they need to be fully engaged.”
  7. Create a rhythm for the community – Vibrant communities have a rhythm, a tempo, ideally somewhere between breathless and sluggish. “There is no right beat for all communities, and the beat is likely to change as the community evolves.”

Update (03 March 2009): Point 3 talks about a 75-15-10 split between passive, semi-active and activist involvement in a community of practice. On my pwcom blog, I talk about Jakob Nielsen’s 90-9-1 model.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2009/01/building-communities-aliveness/

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