I’ve posted about Top-down vs Bottom-Up community creation, and at the moment at work ours is Top-Down. What I mean by this is people who want to create a community fill in a request form (Bottom-up request), we consult with them to suit their needs and offer some community consultation, and then create their community (Top-down creation).
Our communities are not straight forward like Clearspace communities which are based around a forum type stream (which are similar to a Facebook Group), instead ours are more like a website portal that also contains forums and blogs. So it’s much more involved to set up (there is an element of webdesign using a rich text editor)…anyway it’s important facilitators structure and pilot their community before releasing them.
As you can tell, these are more long-term type communities that act as a conversational portal website like you would see on the web (they take more work, but you can make them look fancy).
If we were running something like Clearspace there is no doubt they would be created bottom-up, as all it takes is one click and your simple streamed group space is created and ready to go.
The difference here is a very quick, simple, usable, intuitive group space ready to go in one click, vs a more complicated, longer to structure, structure to your context, design the usability yourself…but in the end you get a fancy looking conversational portal.
I think both these tools are complementary rather than substitutes.
In the future we are looking into a similar social network and group space like Clearspace from an upcoming vendor. These group spaces will complement our existing communities, as we plan to call them “work spaces”, a place to quickly do some task conversation and document collaboration (more a 90 day cycle thing compared to our existing long term communities).
Sorry about the tangent…
The reason for this post is, although our method is Top-Down *creation*, do not confuse this with Top-Down *request*.
What I mean is that our communities are requested bottom-up (Bottom-up request), and then we do the clicking to create it (Top-Down creation).
IF THERE IS a Top-Down *request*, usually by a boss, we inform them that willing a community this way is not effective. Instead you have to workshop with your potential members and from this conversation an appropriate community/s will manifest. I’ll give you an example of the opposite.
In a discussion with a potential new community, the lead of a group asked for a general community and then another five for each topic.
Here’s my response:
You are correct, the more specific the CoP the better.
If the CoP covers too many topics
- the homepage may not be at least 90% relevant to a random member
- plus when you have your own CoP you have your own place/identity (your own rules), rather than buried in a general CoP
(added to this, when people browse the community directory, the name of the CoP will describe what it’s about, and this name may not describe all topics you cover…in saying this there is also a description field)
Each CoP needs in this order:
1. a substantial enough topic to warrant it’s own space
2. someone who is passionate and has the time to lead it
3. a bunch of members who also have an interest in the topic and will contribute
If you have all of these then we will create a CoP as specific as you can (by that I mean a space where people have a shared identity about a topic)
- but I expect each person who wants to lead these CoPs to approach me
Obviously you need number 1.
- the topic needs to be meaty enough that there are frequent contributions (contributions are the breath, and without enough every so often, the community will weaken and die)
You need number 2.
- members need to be facilitated, there needs to be a goto person who steers the ship
If you don’t have number 3.
- then you don’t really have a community which means you need to find people to build one, once this happens then you can use an online community space
- in this situation what you can do is create some forums in an existing community, and if these forums gains traction, then that one day may warrant its own community
This blog post says it all: Will the community of practice get started? A test and the effect of titles
Later on that day the most uncanny thing happened. I noticed some communities in the directory that were created before I was the global lead for the company.
- there was a general community and then another 4 specific communities where the title started with the general communities prefix
Here’s a fictional example:
All about CoPs
All about CoPs - manage
All about CoPs - measure
I rang up the Facilitator of the general community and he told me that he got those 4 specific communities created in the hope to get some people to run them. But it just didn’t happen.
I suggested that since there seems to be no-one to lead a posse of contributors on these topics then perhaps we will delete them and create them as forums in the general community, and see if they get traction, in which one day they may become their own communities.
Bottom-up request is essential, and I’ve quoted Dave Snowden repeatedly, but it’s so precise “If a community has value it will form”
More thoughts on community structure and creation
Broad communities as fertile ground for new communities
Team-based communities are about change, commitment and tasks
Team-based communities : Transparency and Crowdsourcing for a more cohesive workplace
Crowdsource as a way to create a community