Nancy White has been generous to share a section out of a chapter of her co-authored (Etienne Wenger and John. D Smith) forth coming book, Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities.
Here’s what Nancy says about community orientation:
“In our research of CoPs we noticed 9 general patterns of activities that characterized a community’s orientation. Most had a mix, but some were more prominent in every case. By looking at orientations, we posit, you are in a better position to understand how to support them with tools and processes. They give you a lens to reflect on how your community is doing and where you might want it to be headed.“
Nancy’s chart is on “orientation”, assessing exactly what type of community you are by examining your activities and components, and how they are weighted on their own and in comparison to the rest…and specifically in this context, how they can be supported or enabled by technology. As a result of this reflection you may discuss, plan and re-focus…or perhaps things are exactly where you want to be.
eg. It may illustrate that your community is more of an asynchronous bunch of people as you don’t have real-time meetings. This is a good or bad thing depending if it aligns with your intentions and aims.
It may illustrate that members don’t participate in their individual space. This may be OK if all members are happy with a forum, but if not, then perhaps profile blogs can remedy this.
- real-time gathering (f2f, telecon, videocon)
- coordinate an activity/task
- Access to expertise
- learn from topic experts
- get to know each other, build rapport
- this point reminds me of an Anecdote white paper where they mention hanging out with each other often enough has an unconscious absorbing effect of knowledge transfer and learning
- is the community audience the members (inward community), or awareness for visitors or both
- Community cultivation
- facilitating member needs and the whole togetherness and bonding of the community members. The stronger this is, the more people are comfortable and aware of where they fit and how to interact…I think this drives more conversations.
- Individual participation
- members freedom to roam around the community and access information, and express their point of view, creating a more diverse CoP
- this may be the reification part of a generated output based on community interactions eg. a journal article, a toolkit
- Open ended conversation
- space and opportunity for conversation (without this you would just have an online website, not a community)
In Nancy’s words it’s a planning, assessment and reflection method; and best of all it’s visual…the spidergram/radarchart gives you a view that a linear list could just not do.
See it in the slidedeck below (PDF):
What I like about this is you could use the spidergram to list the current orientation of the group, and then overlay the same spidergram of where they hope to be with the enablement of an online community tool. And in the future do another spidergram snapshot to see how far they have progressed.
Adoption health check
I was thinking a spidergram could be used for an adoption diagnostic or health check for communities in the growth stage.
Assessing the scope:
- Is your community still serving the needs of participants?
- Is the shared identity still strong?
- How can the direction or focus be altered in a holistic way to better sustain the community?
- How and with what aids/activities/tools can this new outlook be supported?
- Is the community 90% relevant to members?
- Are there some active topics that could warrant their own community?
- Are there thriving conversations?
- Are topics buried, or easily accessible on the homepage?
- Is the community homepage informative enough and designed for intuitive usability?
- Do you know how to publish content and interact?
- Is the facilitator a role-model in contributing, interacting and gardening?
- Is the facilitator doing hand-holding (how to publish, re-purposing email)?
- Is the community being promoted, are you doing group building exercises?
- Do members have the confidence/trust and comfort to participate?
- Is email being re-purposed as blog, forum and wiki content?
- Are people emerging as subject matter experts?
This community could be a little more relevant; this may be because there has been a tangent on a related topic which is getting lots of attention and perhaps overshadowing the shared identity. An idea may be to splinter this topic into it’s own community.
It seems we may need to fix the design to perhaps bring some topic coverage on the homepage (that may be currently buried), which may drive some more participation and conversation.
If we also do some handholding (eg. one on one tutoring in posting to a blog), we may increase people’s confidence, and double our people with know-how in how to publish, as a result we may get even more thriving conversations.
I’ve also got a feeling we already have some good conversations due to the Facilitator being a good role model as an active contributor (people seem to be following their lead and enthusiasm), and that they are also making sure emails are re-purposed as a blog communication, forum discussion or wiki collaboration.
The fact that some people are becoming known as subject matter experts is a real positive thing, and illustrates that the community is being adopted and recognised. I think a little more group building exercise, or real-time connection will get people closer together and perhaps have more to talk about online and feel more confident as they know their fellow members a little more.
A while back I posted on some golden rules people need to think about when they request and form a community. I also included some other start-up aspects and displayed them in a spidergram, since I am addicted to these things.
NOTE: To tell you the truth a spidergram is not a typical use for this example as I think a spidergram works best when you can see weighted focus on similar level components. eg what was the overall performance of a project based on areas such as quality, delivery, engagement, time, cost. etc…Nonetheless it still gives you a snapshot, in a more imprinting and relatable way than a linear list
But since I’m addicted here it is…
- Do you have a substantial enough topic that warrants it’s own community?
- Do you have a community leader with passion and time?
- Do you have passionate key members?
- Do you have a shared identity on what you want out of the community? eg. topic, learning
- Have you workshopped your design, topics, tools, etc…
- Is it about learning and sharing?
- Is it about coordinating tasks?
- Is it about communicating to a general visitor audience? More a communication, and crowdsource tool, than a community?
From this example you can see that this community have a robust topic, where the aim is more about learning and sharing, and have members ready to go, but a passionate person (with some time on their hands) is yet to step forward or be nominated as the Community Leader.
At this stage they don’t intend to use it to coordinate tasks, and it’s not the type of community that is one way communications with blog comments for feedback and perhaps a forum idea box for crowdsourcing.
They still need to work out their shared identity (what everyone wants out of it, what’s it’s mainly aiming to achieve), and this is probably due to the fact that they need to come together and workshop their needs.
Here are some other spidergrams/radarcharts I have come across lately:
Here are some tools from a quick search on Google…they use Excel…dang, and I went and used powerpoint: