Cultivating community in IMCoPs

Ok so this is happening later that I would have liked but here goes…

In the next three weeks I will unpack some of my research findings about the common factors found in the cultivation of community in successful Internet-mediated communities of practice (IMCoPs). And in July we begin the first of a series of case studies that will bring to life exemplar communities and the management and design issues they exemplify.

Almost weekly I am introduced to people charged with intentionally developing an Internet-mediated community even while just as many believe that community development is an organic process and cannot be managed or orchestrated. Stories of failure to develop community are abundant, especially in the education sector. One problem that I have first hand experience of, in ‘failed’ attempts at community development, is the seductiveness of a front-loaded design process. Such a process puts in place tools and technical architecture before social infrastructure. It implicitly expects the members to grow into the fully-formed design delivered up to to them rather than a preparedness to grow and take direction through member demand. It was a personal failure of this very nature propelled me into my case study research and this attempt to understand the management role and value in community.

Many experienced in community management would agree that we cannot actually design the community, what we do is design for community. I can say that I came to understand the management role as a true enabler; constantly providing and sustaining opportunity for its membership to build community. How that enabling happens, in what contexts and under what conditions is the purpose of my ongoing research and this blog.

The four blog posts to follow this will summarize key insights drawn from the findings and as they relate to management’s contribution to the development of PEOPLE, COMMON TIES, SOCIAL INTERACTION and PLACE as components of community (Hillery, 1959).

Community components in the IMCoP

These insights, gleaned from case study of 12 heterogeneous exemplar communities, represent the understandings, practices and design developments that community management need to be mindful of and act upon in order to cultivate community in an Internet-mediated community of practice.