Building and sustaining on-line communities


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No matter how good the technology, it won't guarantee you a successful on-line community. You need effective facilitation to build and nurture the community. The presentation describes the role and responsibilities of a community facilitator, and is a reminder that when implementing the technology - batteries are not included!

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  • Why does a person engage with a CoP? Attractive purpose grabs and retains attention Perceived benefits: Socialisation Co-learning, knowledge sharing and co-production Each person chooses to be a member Volition Joining in – and leaving !
  • In the beginning, you need at least one unexpected value for the members every few days. Keep it simple: Involve your team in feeding the community with interesting content, such current news, events, training offers, key documents etc. Rely on the fun factor: polls and fancy stuff like video, photos and audio can be motivating and reduce anxieties, especially in the beginning
  • Understanding your community will help you to anticipate its needs.
  • Engaging new members Introduction forums are great way to help people familiarise themselves with an online community, and are simple to set up. By asking a fun question this will allow them to express their personality or interesting things about themselves, and it will help people get to know each other better.
  • Know who your contributors are – and look after them! Observers (some call them ‘lurkers’) are still valuable members of the community. The fact that they accessing and reading content contributes to the overall dynamics of the community. Inactive users (those who have registered but have not contributed or accessed any content) should be removed. It is necessary to ‘feed’ and weed’ a community in order for it to flourish and grow.
  • A facilitator needs to understand the natural rhythm of the community. It won’t be ‘full-on’ all the time and there may be periods of inactivity. Knowing when to intervene comes from understanding these cycles of activity/inactivity.
  • Knowledge flows along existing pathways in organizations. To understand the knowledge flow, find out what the patterns are. Create interventions to create, reinforce, or change the patterns to improve the knowledge flow.
  • Regular newsletters signposting new and interesting content will draw members back into the CoP.
  • A simple CoP health check will guide the facilitator on suitable interventions for various ‘symptoms’ of an unhealthy CoP.
  • Having a place to go to get help and information is essential. The on-line facilitator’s CoP is a place for ‘crowd-sourcing’ and co-creation of useful information and good practice.
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