Thursday, February 23, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
What to do if a network organisation of medical doctors is approaching you with a request to start an online community? It was one of the case studies which participants had to deal with during the second round of online conversations in the course 'Social media for organisational learning and change'. Some of the recommendations which were shared by the participants included:
1. Start with research: Check if there is an interest and energy to start an experiment with social media. Check assumptions if the members think the same, as the head office of the network organisation.
2. Initiate an experiment: If there is interest, start with a small group of enthousiastic members with an experiment.
3. Expand the network gradually: Build an identity, have clear topics for discussion, create and maintain an attractive online discussion space and start to expand from there.
Types of online communities
According to Ed Mitchell there are three types of communities:
1. Centralized community: The group has a closed platform, where they exchange experiences.
2. Decentralized community: The group has both a closed and a open platform. An example is an online intervision group, who share professional experience and share tools, literature and publication in public.
3. Distributed community: This group has both a closed and an open platform where they exchange information. However, they also involve other interested parties in the exchange of knowledge. An example is a professional network with a closed and open platform, using twitterchats, webinars or other public online discussion events for interaction.
See a prezi presentation about online communities (in Dutch language)
How to start a community?
There are five basic steps which need to be undertaken by the leadership to start up an online community:
Step 1. Build the identity: Find common interests and identify shared goals
Step 2. Build the group: Identify potential members for the community and define their roles and responsibilities and work to achieve their goals
Step 3. Define the working mode: Select activities and define the common ground rules.
Step 4. Find resources for making your community work eg. budget, time and commitment from community members, communication tools , adequate know how and authorisation from the organisation(s) involved
Step 5. Launch the community: organize official events, establish a schedule and allow members to know each other and reinforce the sense of belonging.
Key success factors for maintaining a community
A starting online community is composed of 90 % lurkers (people who just read and follow discussions), 9 % of active members and 1 % of leaders. An optimal and active community is composed of 70 % lurkers, 25 % active members and 5 % leaders. But how to get there? Based on experience, Erwin Blom (author of Handbook Communities) distinguishes five factors for success:
1. Have a clear domain and objectives;
2. Define clear ground rules and maintain them;
3. Involve community members regularly by inviting them to introduce topics and regularly conduct opinion polls for collecting feedback;
4. Have an attractive outlook of the online meeting space of the group
5. Introduce regularly small new things each time, e.g. new topics, new information, new outlooks etc...
Community Manager - The gardener
The community manager is the main online facilitator behind the screens of the community. He/ she is playing various roles, which can be symbolized as a gardener:
He/ she is the one;
- Welcoming participants and make them feel at ease in the community;
- Updating the membership. Giving new participants access to the community and introduce them to the ground rules. Loging out members who are terminating their membership;
- Maintaining the groud rules and playing the role of police officer;
- Collecting feedback from members on how the community can be improved;
- Addressing expert leaders to initiate topics or new theory or respond to discussions and encouraging group leaders to initiate activities or events;
- Summarizing discussions
- Introducing new topics, events, webbased applications and new ideas.
Tips and hints for initiating an online community:
Summarized I would like to give you the following tips and hints for starting an online community:
- Start with a vision and passion
- Form a core group of leaders
- Combine content with process expertise
- Building relationships is more important than fancy tools
- Be persistant and determined on what you would like to accomplish.
If you are triggered and interested on how to gain skills and expertise on 'Online Facilitation' and 'how to guide online communities' consult http://faciliteeronline.nl/ There you find opportunities in participating in the course 'Social media for organisational learning and change' , 'Webinars with international experts' and 'Inspiration sessions on social media'. These online courses are a joint initiative of Joitske Hulsebosch, Sibrenne Wagenaar and Simon Koolwijk
Monday, February 6, 2012
'Did Colombus discover America? Or was America already there to be discovered?' 'And how is it about innovations? Did the innovator discover the invention? Or was the innovation already there, before it was discovered?'
'Facilitationas a 2nd profession - author Jan Lelie' is a book with a number of remarkable quotes and practical examples on how to facilitate and guide groups. Increasingly facilitation becomes a 2nd profession for professionals. It is the first profession, that determines people's capacities to deal with technical and content issues. Facilitation is a necessary skill to make the work with your colleagues more effective. Facilitation as a 2nd profession is a pré-condition to get the optimum out of the 1st profession.
This book provides some useful hints and theories on how to guide and make groups work more effective. Reference is made to theories such as Kolb, ORID, Theory U, Balanced Score Card, Appreciativeinquiry and Social-Technical Systems Design. Most interesting for me were the chapters about 1. Leadership; 2. The path of change; 3. Rules of thumb for solving problems; 4. Useful tips for the facilitator.
Does the group need a leader? Or is the secret of an effective group, that people take leadership themselves including the leader? According to Jan Lelie an effective group creates a leader and people take leadership in their own work. Ineffective groups ask for a leader. JanLelie distinguishes three types of ineffective groups:
Dependency - The group wants a leader who depends on them;
Flight or fight - Negative feelings of the group are projected on another group. Others are blamed for their mistakes;
Pairing -a small group or a commission is asked to come up with a leader.
A leader shows up when there is a change, or when change has to be initiated.
The path of change
An interesting method that caught my eye, is the 'Renaissance Path'. It is the path of change, where people invent themselves on a new way. For individuals this could mean a pilgrimage, writing a book, a retreat or finalizing a thesis. Rebirth is the path of change, which can also be applied for groups or organisations. Examples of a rebirth of an organisation are expressed by:
- Adding new meaning or new value
- Designing a new vision
- Splitting the organisation
- Initiating new activities
- Have a new mode of working
Jan Lelie is stressing the importance of a 'shared vision'. 'Team co-operation is the main factor, that contributes to success', according to Jan Lelie. It is not the result but a combination of communication, trust, co-operation and the feeling of being involved contributes to the success of an organisation. So it is not the quality of the vision that determines the success, but the 'shared vision'.
Rules of thumb for solving problems
'Having the wrong solution for the right problem, is to be prefered above the right solution for the wrong problem' is a life essence which is repeated a number of times. Some remarks about problem identification were useful for me:
- The problem definition is 80 % of the solution;
- People are never the problem, but their beliefs towards the problem are the problem;
- Someone who is against something shows more commitment than somebody who does not want to be involved in the decision making;
- Joint beliefs are necessary towards solving a problem;
- Strive towards a consensus about the problem definition, but not about the solution;
- Give people time to get clearity about their problem. Don't push! Patience brings some great results!
Some useful hints as facilitator
After reading this book I acquired and was re-affirmed on some techniques I am using, while I am facilitating groups:
- First evaluate before you start a visioning exercise. People will identify their mistakes and in-corporate their improvements in the session;
- When getting started with an event check and ask about people's background. People talk and share their views and perspectives based on their historic background. Mathamaticians will refer to logical explications. Artists will talk from a creative and intuïtive perspective;
- Let people first write their own ideas and insights. After that they are more open to listen to perspectives of others.
- People work most effective in small groups: 3-5 people;
- Check how people relate to each other. If relations are well the group performance is likely to improve. If relations are bad, it is one of the facilitator's tasks to challenge the quality of the relationships;
- Identify people's expectations in the beginning of the meeting. People feel more ownership if they have brought their own wishes and needs forward;
- Facilitate in the 'here and now'. It is the point of departure for an effective group session.
'Facilitationas a 2nd profession' is a practical and well elaborated book. The practical examples and the anekdotes are helpful in understanding the complexity of facilitation. Helping groups to become successfull sounds easy, but long-life experience is necessary to overcome challenges in change. Links are made with some major basic theories of facilitation methods. The author clearly explains the ad- and disavantages of each. I liked particularly the jokes and anekdotes. The book is supported with some beautiful paintings from Joyce Weber. It is a pleasure to read. Consult: 'Faciliteren als tweede beroep - Jan Lelie, GellingPublishing'