Coming Full Circle – Cultivating Community

You know you have come full circle when…

In 2002-3 I was in the research phase of what became Integrative Activism – learning about networks, story telling, communities of practice. Sorting it all out – how they mapped to my communities needs and what it would be like to be strategic. I read Cultivating Communities of Practice by Richard McDermott, Ettienne Wenger and William Snyder. For me it became this keystone work for understanding theoretically and strategically what I was working on to to support community amongst leaders in spiritual activism and to foster connection amongst those showing up at workshops and retreats.

On Tuesday I spoke at the Community 2.0 Conference leading a panel on Community, Self Organization & Governance – Roles & Rules.

I talked about the experience of starting the identity community and the critical nature of both the DNA of the community – Who are the first people and how they interact with each other is critical. The rules and norms of the community will emerge out of that. The invitation and intention of the founders is also reflected in this early stage. At some point you can catalyse some self-reflection of the community to articulate the norms or principles of the community so they are more explicit and available for new people to get up to speed. I also talked about the huge value of face-to-face meeting opportunities to augment online communication – blogs, wikis, mailinglists, podcasts.
Afterwards – Richard McDermott came up to me and said he liked the panel and that it was clear to him that I really had done this work and liked what I had to say about it. Wow! That meant a lot to me.

Continuing on about the panel….
The panel included – Chris Carfi, Cerado; Chris Heuer, Brainjams and Chris Tolles, Topix.net.

Several other folks also thanked me for the panel. Apparently there was some audience discontent because we did not ‘answer’ the questions in the program. “What are THE rules?”, “What are THE roles?”, “How do you “GOVERN?” To me this was actually good because as Kathy Sierra has pointed out some people love you and some people hate you – mediocre sucks.

We turned the tables on the audience and asked them what their questions where. I saw the original frame for the panel:

Through a set of discussions in this session we will take a closer look at the social infrastructure that needs to be in place to ensure successful communities. What is the role of anonymity? How do you define identities? Do you create roles? What rules need to be in place?

and proposed it be changed – this was agreed to but not actually changed on the website or the program brochure (oops):

How do you seed communities? How can you build shared identity and meaning in community? How do you scale – when do rolls and rules come into play? How do communities govern themselves? What tools help build “social infrastructure” help communities thrive?

We had a great panel anyways – people asked these questions to get us going:

  • Should rules be flexible, or carved in stone?
  • What are the implications of anonymous community members?
  • What are different governance models?
  • What is the time and/or human resource involved in community management?
  • When to post the terms prominently? And when to bury them?
  • How do advertisers get involved?
  • What about conflict resolution?
  • Our industry (pharma) is highly regulated. How do we do this?
  • Should the rules be member-defined?
  • How do you seed a community, and how does it scale?
  • What kills community?
  • Should communities be online, offline, or both?
  • What are the skills needed to be a moderator?

It was a great pleasure to share at the conference. I am hopeful about the spread of good face to face meeting process into this world. I think there is a link between this Community 2.0 world and Vendor Relationship Management that Doc is working on. I hope some folks will come to the Internet Identity Workshop.

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