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Peter Cruickshank
Bruce Ryan
Centre for Social Informatics
The Communities of Practice model for
understanding digital eng...
What are community councils
• Their purpose is to represent small areas within Local Authorities
• Powers are limited
– Mo...
Community Councils
IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
Not very active online
Inactive
CCs
Active with online presences…
Total
CCs…missing
…out-of-
date
…up-
to-date
Total 213 4...
Not very active online
• This level of use of websites compares adversely with the 98%
of Austrian Gemeinden and 90% of No...
Challenge
• Essentially, Looking at a failed part of the political system
…an edge case
» Technology will not solve this p...
The project
This is e-participation:
• Focus on those who engage with citizens
– Representatives as content creators
– If ...
What is a CoP
• What is a CoP
– “A CoP is a self-organized group of individuals concerned with a specific practice, who ar...
The project approach
• Ethnographic / action research pilot
• Interviewing & working with three CCs
• Around 20 participan...
Results
• Mix of individuals and bodies
• Reliance on small number of key players
• Very weak or non existent links betwee...
The optimistic view
IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
Boundaries and transitions
IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
Community of interest 1:
Interested in CCs
Community of learning:
Teaching...
Need more understanding of transitions
• Results show that there are some links
– But many features of a CoP are missing
–...
THANK YOU
Peter Cruickshank
p.cruickshank@napier.ac.uk
@spartakan
IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
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Community councils, participation, CoP and knowledge

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My presentation at IFIP EGOV/EPART 2015 - quick look at whether the community of practice model can help understand online behaviour by community councillors in Scotland

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Community councils, participation, CoP and knowledge

  1. 1. Peter Cruickshank Bruce Ryan Centre for Social Informatics The Communities of Practice model for understanding digital engagement by hyperlocal elected representatives
  2. 2. What are community councils • Their purpose is to represent small areas within Local Authorities • Powers are limited – Mostly, the right to be consulted – Some more direct input into planning processes • Community Council members are unpaid volunteers • Small to non-existent budgets – Average annual income is around £400 – enough to hire a monthly meeting room, pay for some stationery (Arrangements vary across the United Kingdom between England, Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland but share a common model) IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  3. 3. Community Councils IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  4. 4. Not very active online Inactive CCs Active with online presences… Total CCs…missing …out-of- date …up- to-date Total 213 498 351 307 1,369 % of all 16% 36% 26% 22% 100% %of active NA 43% 30% 27% 100% IFIP EGOV EPART 2015 Worse: A high level of churn: 223 (34%) online presences degrading or disappearing altogether
  5. 5. Not very active online • This level of use of websites compares adversely with the 98% of Austrian Gemeinden and 90% of Norwegian kommuner. • Only 38 CCs (12% of active online sites) had information to support engagement with the planning process • despite this being core to their mission. • Official support is one factor but not the story • Low level of use of Facebook & Twitter – No simple relationship between urban/rural characteristic of LAs and CCs’ online effectiveness – Profile of the community councillors (eg age) is probably also significant IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  6. 6. Challenge • Essentially, Looking at a failed part of the political system …an edge case » Technology will not solve this problem – BUT: It is interesting to look for cases where technology does make a difference • Can models of practice be found and shared? IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  7. 7. The project This is e-participation: • Focus on those who engage with citizens – Representatives as content creators – If this is not effective, then a link with representative democracy is broken • Looking at online activity – We are aware of multichannel context and importance of F2F communication in local communities • Framing the situation as a knowledge management problem “How are the community councillors learning to use the internet?” IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  8. 8. What is a CoP • What is a CoP – “A CoP is a self-organized group of individuals concerned with a specific practice, who are learning how to improve this practice through regular interaction” (Brown & Duguid) – It is “tightly knit” – with legitimation process (Lave & Wenger) – Has process of introducing new members – Has boundaries • Conceived around a core-periphery model – Parallels with pyramid of participation – Core members set agenda, act as facilitators / knowledge brokers – Others move towards centre • Provides a model for understanding how – learn how to do things – create a community to share & build on this knowledge Here: community councillors are acting in an open network with voluntary participation IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  9. 9. The project approach • Ethnographic / action research pilot • Interviewing & working with three CCs • Around 20 participants • One intervention • Gathering data on links and support networks IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  10. 10. Results • Mix of individuals and bodies • Reliance on small number of key players • Very weak or non existent links between many community councillors • No intentional KM: CCs are (small) knowledge silos • Links tend to be vertical, not horizontal • We’re either looking at a proto-cluster – or ‘beyond the periphery’ • Impact of project: participant education IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  11. 11. The optimistic view IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  12. 12. Boundaries and transitions IFIP EGOV EPART 2015 Community of interest 1: Interested in CCs Community of learning: Teaching and learning on how to use digital comms for CCs Community of interest 2: Interested in digital comms Potential Community of practice: Using digital comms for CCs Interested in digital comms and CCs Transition into the CoP (via legitimated peripheral participation?) ‘Churn’: individuals ceasing to engage ?
  13. 13. Need more understanding of transitions • Results show that there are some links – But many features of a CoP are missing – Another example of a project where the ‘dark matter’ of non-engaged participation matters • Good example of need for caution on using the label “CoP” – It’s not an online forum – It’s not people talking to each other • Challenges – More to understand what’s going on & why this isn’t leading to links – Can we design interventions? • Next step: bigger, longer project IFIP EGOV EPART 2015
  14. 14. THANK YOU Peter Cruickshank p.cruickshank@napier.ac.uk @spartakan IFIP EGOV EPART 2015

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