Discovering The Value Of Social Networks and Communities of Practice


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There has been much written about measuring the value of online communities such as Social Networks or Communities of Practice. However, most pundits tend to think of measuring value from a purely financial perspective, i.e. the Return on Investment (ROI). Clearly this is an important factor, but it’s not the only factor that should be considered

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  • Excellent presentation on social networks, thanks for sharing.
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  • I hope all readers benefit from Steve's reponse
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  • Ali,

    thanks for the comments. I assume you're referring to the Network Map diagram? This is using Social Network Analysis, where you can identify the sort of traffic going through the community. It's useful for revealing the most active users in terms of contributions and/or responses, and those who are deemed to be well connected within the community. It can also reveal outliers - i.e. those who have few connections and maybe little active involvement in the community. Information useful to community facilitators who may need to provide help and encouragement to these people.

    As I mention in the slide notes, knowing who the most active contributors are is useful from the perspective of asking 'what would happen to the community if these people left'? It is arguably better to have lots of infrequent contributors than one or two highly active/frequent contributors, since they pose the greatest risk if they leave the community.

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  • This is a timely presentation on social networks and their return on every one. I like the engagement graph as a way to understand our community (in fact, any community). The slide on what you can accomplish in one week is an eye-opener for time management. The new ROI is interesting because of what the author said, 'The chicken does not get fatter the more you weigh it'.
    This is an idea-triggering presentation. I wish the author had given more explanation of the diamond-shaped network. Explanation of networks and the uncovering of hidden pearls is worth highlighting.
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  • Social networks and communities of practice are becoming ubiquitous in our increasingly connected world, and many people are generally involved in a number of them - whether that is at work, school, home, or in our civic and leisure interests. Many managers and organisations remain sceptical about the value that is being created by such networks and communities. How do we value shared knowledge? What is the ROI for a collaborative network? This presentation draws on the practical experience of communities of practice working in UK local government and will aim to answer the elusive ‘value’ question.
  • This presentation draws on the practical experience of communities of practice working in UK local government and will aim to answer the elusive ‘value’ question.
  • What do we mean by the ‘value’ of something? Nutmeg. Weight for weight more valuable than gold in 17 th century Europe. A spice held to have powerful medicinal properties. It rocketed in price when physicians in Elizabethan London claimed that their nutmeg pomanders were the only certain cure for the plague. Do you think it was successful in curing the plague? Quote: I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things. Benjamin F ranklin 1706-1790 It does not necessarily follow that something with a high cost (expensive) has a high value, and conversely, something which may have a low cost (i.e. cheap) could have a high value. So we need to treat ‘cost’ and ‘value’ as two entirely different things.
  • And the need for CoPs that join up LA's
  • IDeA Services Local partnerships leading communities Children’s adult social care and public health Efficiency and vfm Workforce development Equalities and cohesion Direct support to councils Peer working Online support Leadership programmes Beacons and innovation
  • There is a growing recognition but not yet a consensus about integrating Community of Practice (CoP)-style working in the everyday practice of public sector programmes and services. The IDeA CoP platform has gone some way to legitimising this new way of working, with over 35,000 registered users collaborating and sharing knowledge in more than 820 CoPs. This remains unchartered territory for the majority of staff working in central and local government, and much work remains to be done in addressing the cultural and behavioural barriers that prevent more effective knowledge sharing and practice development
  • The Community Hub page – aggregation of content from the other 900+ communities
  • The major part of this presentation is focused on Communities of Practice (CoPs) – but what are the distinguishing characteristics of a CoP? Arguably the most important characteristic is that members are self-selected, i.e. they are there because they perceive there is some value in being a member of the CoP. They are there because they WANT to be there.
  • Professional networks (Communities of Practice) have been around for hundreds of years. It’s only recently that we have rediscovered how they can support knowledge sharing in virtual environments.
  • Over 800 Worshipful Companies (networks of professional artisans) - currently active in London.
  • Creativity and original thinking will drive change. But remember, not all change is good!
  • And there are now more opportunities to have conversations than ever before!
  • Value to the organisation will probably be different to value to the individual (the latter is far harder to measure).
  • So, if one wants to think of ‘value’ solely in terms of hard cash savings – then online conferences have saved IDeA over £80,000 in 2009 (10 conferences x £8000). But, as mentioned previously, it is wrong to confuse ‘costs’ with ‘value’. The real value comes from the learning and sharing opportunities provided by the on-line conference. There are also far more effective networking opportunities provided in a virtual (on-line) environment, where posted comments (in forums, blogs etc.) can reach a far wider audience.
  • How much simpler and efficient is it to have one copy of a document that everyone can view and edit than having multiple copies of a document which someone must then manually reconcile into one master version? Wikis were designed with collaboration in mind.
  • YouTube 0.07% of the membership contribute Wikipedia 0.8% of the membership contribute Yahoo groups 1% of the membership contribute
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It is also noted that aggregating quantitative metrics does not provide evidence of either success or failure of a CoP. For example, we need to understand: The original purpose and intended outcomes of the community . Some will be light on discussion and strong on shared document building and vice versa. Others will be ‘one-shot’ supporting a single challenge. 2. The rhythm or cycle of the community . Not all communities will be a hive of activity, some will support its participants at a low level of interaction over a long period, others for short bursts around face-to-face-meetings or events. 3. The quality of the interactions and/or the viewings it attracts. An online community may be composed of lengthy, high quality, position statements or case-studies with relatively little discussion. Others, equally valid, may be filled with chit-chat and gossip, sharing experience in a way that provides moral support for isolated individuals. So any measure of success is likely to be a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. But managers want to know if these communities are successful, or are they just an excuse to waste time chatting (and this is where bad press on social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo or Facebook doesn’t help). We have tried to avoid interfering with the way that the CoPs are being run, particularly in the sense of setting targets and timescales. The more informed managers are aware that traditional command and control processes do not work for CoPs, and that instilling corporate processes on largely free-wheeling communities is likely to stifle and inhibit innovation and learning. However, there is a cost in keeping this technology and support infrastructure going, and it is reasonable to expect questions from senior managers on what the benefits are and what the ROI is. It remains something of a conundrum on how best to respond to these questions in a way that will give senior managers the confidence to maintain investment.
  • Member agreement on knowledge needs is key to stimulating participation. The community must have a shared understanding about what knowledge it needs in the community of practice. Although the proceeding analyses identified needed knowledge, skills, and information , it is wise to build consensus around which KSIs are most critical to community members. The community should prioritise its knowledge needs.
  • Being a member of a community doesn’t have to take up lots of time. Facilitating/moderating a community does require some dedicated effort – half a day per week or more, depending on the size and type of community.
  • Targets such as a 40% contribution rate
  • Know when to relinquish control – let the community find its own direction and set it’s own objectives.
  • Mention handouts (IDeA cards).
  • Discovering The Value Of Social Networks and Communities of Practice

    1. 1. Steve Dale Director Semantix (UK) Ltd Collabor8now Ltd Discovering the value of Social Networks and Communities of Practice Based on a presentation to the Public Health Information Network (PHIN) Atlanta, Georgia. September 2009
    2. 2. Who am I? An evangelist and practitioner in the use of Web 2.0 technologies and Social Media applications to support personal self-development and knowledge sharing. Steve was the business lead and information architect for the community of practice platform currently deployed across the UK local government sector, the largest professional network of its type, and continues to play a key role in the support of virtual communities of practice for value creation in public services. Stephen Dale (Steve)
    3. 3. What I will cover <ul><li>How do we value shared knowledge? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the ROI for a collaborative network? </li></ul><ul><li>What we have learnt from CoPs in UK local government. </li></ul>There is a growing recognition but not yet a consensus about integrating Community of Practice (CoP)-style working in the everyday practice of public sector programmes and services.
    4. 5. About UK Local Government <ul><li>Local government in England and Wales employs a workforce of 2.1 million people across 411 local authorities. </li></ul><ul><li>Each authority is working to deliver the same 700 services to their residents. </li></ul><ul><li>Has an annual operating budget of over £106 billion ($177 billion) for delivering services. </li></ul>
    5. 6. Over 700 Local Gov Services
    6. 7. Background to the IDeA <ul><li>Set up in 1999 by and for local government </li></ul><ul><li>Owned by the Local Government Association </li></ul><ul><li>Accountable through a stakeholder board </li></ul><ul><li>Working for local government improvement so councils can serve people and places better </li></ul><ul><li>Learning what works and helping the councils and their partners help each other improve </li></ul>
    7. 8. IDeA CoP Platform Statistics <ul><li>Platform officially launched November 2007 . </li></ul><ul><li>Currently 50,000 registered users , and 900 communities . </li></ul><ul><li>90 new members a day (over 400 new joiners a week). </li></ul><ul><li>Average of 10 new CoPs created each week. </li></ul><ul><li>100% council coverage ( 411 councils ) </li></ul>
    8. 10. Work group descriptions KIN, Warwick Business School As long as there is interest in maintaining the group Passion, commitment and identification with the group’s expertise Members who select themselves To develop members’ capabilities; to build and exchange knowledge Community of Practice As long as people have a reason to connect Mutual needs and interests Friends and acquaintances To collect and pass on information Social networks Until project completion Project milestones and goals Employees assigned by senior management To accomplish a task Project team Until organisational restructuring Job requirements and org structure Employees who reports to the group’s manager To deliver a product or service Formal work group Duration Adhesive Members Purpose
    9. 11. So what’s new about CoPs?
    10. 12. Royal Guild of Cloth makers Guild of St Luke (painters) Guild of Goldsmiths
    11. 13. Over 800 Worshipful Companies
    12. 14. So, nothing new about people gathering together and sharing knowledge .
    13. 15. But have we forgotten how to have conversations?
    14. 16. The age of mass production has stifled independent thought
    15. 17. Uniformity, repetition
    16. 18. Workplace – no place for creative thought
    17. 19. Is this what we asked for or what managers think we need?
    18. 20. &quot;If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you got.&quot; Albert Einstein, 1879-1955 Evolution
    19. 21. This is NOT profound! <ul><li>We don’t know what we don’t know </li></ul><ul><li>People don’t learn from content – they learn from other people. </li></ul><ul><li>We don’t know the value of knowledge until it is shared </li></ul><ul><li>We need to find where the conversations are happening….and join in! </li></ul>
    20. 22. Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas
    21. 23. Group Collaboration <ul><li>Dialogue is NOT: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion, deliberation, negotiation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Committee, team, task or working group </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Majority wins, minority dominance, groupthink </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Dialogue IS: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Free-flowing exchange of ideas among equals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All ideas are solicited and are considered </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Best ideas rise to the top </li></ul></ul>Cass R Sunstein, 2006
    22. 24. The ROI conundrum <ul><li>How do you put a price on a conversation and how do you measure the value of that conversation? </li></ul>
    23. 25. Return on Investment (ROI) <ul><li>Keep the I small and the R will look after itself. </li></ul>
    24. 26. ROI – alternative definitions <ul><li>Return on Influence </li></ul><ul><li>Return on Interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Return on Impact </li></ul>
    25. 27. Different perceptions of ‘value’ Community member Community Benefits to the organisation Benefits to the individual Knowledge Sharing Quality and intensity of engagement
    26. 28. Value to the organisation <ul><li>Cost of one face to face conference: </li></ul><ul><li>100 people attending an event in London </li></ul><ul><li>£5000/$8200 for rooms + lunch </li></ul><ul><li>£30/$50 per person return train travel from a central England venue (Birmingham). </li></ul><ul><li>One face-to-face conference would cost £8000/$13000 </li></ul><ul><li>Cost of an on-line conference is virtually £0/$0. There have been over ten on-line conferences facilitated by IDeA in 2009. </li></ul>
    27. 29. Measuring value to the individual Ask the CoP members ….
    28. 30. Keeping up to date with current thinking <ul><li>“ The site is a good way to check things being released by government or to look up something you may have missed, it’s an extra safety net. I always go on at least a couple of times a week to keep my eyes open to the issues and make sure we’re pointing in the right direction.” </li></ul><ul><li>Tristan Hardman-Dodd, Policy Officer, Sandwell Borough Council </li></ul>
    29. 31. Innovations <ul><li>“ Many of the online groups that we set up on the site either reflected new projects or were new groups working on a new priority that wasn’t covered under the business unit or structure. So for our change groups for example, it was a place for those new projects and communities to have a home.” </li></ul><ul><li>Noel Hatch, Projects and Research Lead, Innovation Unit, Kent County Council. </li></ul>
    30. 32. Sharing Good Practice / avoiding duplication of work <ul><li>“ I was scanning the website and I happened to come across work by colleagues in Barnet on diversity monitoring, which means you can profile your users to make sure you’re not providing services that aren’t needed.” </li></ul><ul><li>Dennis Bartholomew, Senior Policy Manager (equalities), London Borough of Sutton . </li></ul>
    31. 33. Relationship Building <ul><li>“The thing about CoPs is the discussions and ideas that go on,” he adds, “it’s like having an ongoing network of contacts, and that was difficult to do before.” </li></ul><ul><li>Pete Thomson, business architect, Wolverhampton City Council </li></ul>
    32. 34. Measuring value by productivity
    33. 35. Metrics & Measurement <ul><li>Step 1: Identify Business Objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Step 2: Decide on Priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Step 3: Choose What to Measure & Tools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Quantitative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualitative </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 4: Benchmark </li></ul><ul><li>Step 5: Identifying Trends & Reporting </li></ul>
    34. 36. IDeA CoP Business Objectives <ul><li>Connecting people to people </li></ul><ul><li>Connecting with key stakeholders, practitioners and experts </li></ul><ul><li>ensures that fundamental learning and experience is shared within </li></ul><ul><li>and across the sector. </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiency and value for money </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative working environments support faster problem solving, </li></ul><ul><li>reduces duplication of effort, and potentially provides endless access to expertise. </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainable self-improvement </li></ul><ul><li>Providing opportunities for staff to network, share and develop </li></ul><ul><li>practice encourages an effective flow of knowledge within and </li></ul><ul><li>across the sector, while supporting evidence informed decision and </li></ul><ul><li>policy making. </li></ul>
    35. 37. What to measure (everything!)
    36. 38. Understanding your community
    37. 39. Understanding your community profile Observers Power Contributors Contributors Inactive
    38. 40. Network maps provide insight and prompt questions I frequently or very frequently receive information from this person that I need to do my job . Hutchinson Associates 2005
    39. 41. Metrics <ul><li>Don’t rely on metrics to claim your community is successful. </li></ul><ul><li>Use metrics and indicators to understand your community better. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t let your managers turn indicators into targets! </li></ul>A chicken doesn’t get fatter the more you weigh it!
    40. 42. IDeA CoPs - what we have learnt
    41. 43. Tools that can support collaborative working Find and connect with experts Threaded discussion forums, wikis, blogs, document repository News feeds Event calendar News and Newsletters Find and connect with your peers
    42. 44. … but it’s more about the people than the technology
    43. 45. What can you accomplish in one week? Time in the week Start a discussion Be a CoP member Facilitate a CoP Respond to a forum posting Write a blog Contribute to a wiki Read a document Read a blog Read a wiki Comment on a blog Add an event Upload a document Read a forum post No time I hr 5 hrs 10 hrs Lots of time
    44. 46. Top Tips. <ul><li>..identify and look after your facilitators – they are quite often the difference between successful and unsuccessful communities </li></ul><ul><li>..let users drive their own experimentation and use of tools. </li></ul><ul><li> and support areas that have a clear desire and need. </li></ul><ul><li> trust and relationships face to face where possible. </li></ul><ul><li>..condition your managers for failure – not every CoP is going to be successful. </li></ul><ul><li>..use online conferences and ‘Hot Seats’ to build membership growth and encourage conversations. </li></ul>Do….
    45. 47. Don’t.... <ul><li>..think you can force people to collaborate </li></ul><ul><li>..assume everyone understands how to use Web2.0/social media tools. </li></ul><ul><li>..assume everyone knows how to contribute. </li></ul><ul><li>..worry about the ‘lurkers’. </li></ul><ul><li>..let command, control or hierarchy hamper or kill your community </li></ul><ul><li>..set unrealistic targets </li></ul>Top Tips.
    46. 48. Know when to let go!
    47. 49. <ul><li>“ Go to the People Live with them Learn from them, Love them. </li></ul><ul><li>Start with what they know, Build with what they have. </li></ul><ul><li>. . . But with the best leaders When the work is done the task is accomplished The people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves.” </li></ul>Lao Tsu, Chinese Philosopher (Contemporary of Confucius); Taken from Tao Te Ching c 500 BC And finally…
    48. 50. Stephen Dale Email: [email_address] Twitter: Blog: Thank you!
    49. 51. Credits <ul><li>Getty Images </li></ul><ul><li>Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas </li></ul><ul><li>Social Network Analysis - Hutchinson Associates 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Jacob Nielson </li></ul><ul><li>Uniformity image Edward Burtynsky </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Let go’ image http:// </li></ul><ul><li>Connie Benson </li></ul><ul><li>Cass R Sunstein </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge Management Team colleagues at the Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA) </li></ul>