When you think about changing something in each of the three areas (Purpose: WHATwe care about, People: WHO cares about it and Practice: WHAT we do about it and HOW) in your communities, it is wise not to change things across all three at once, unless of course you really want to “shakethings up.” People generally are challenged by too much change all at once.
Why Are We Building A Community?
If someone asks you to “build a community” (online or offline), you should ask three questions:1.
What is the purpose of the community and why would perspective members care about it?2.
Is there an existing community that can fill this need?
(remember, everything doesn't’ have to beown or invented by us! ) There is a limited amount of time and attention on behalf of potential membersand building communities is resource intensive.3.
What are you willing to invest in this community compared to what you expect to gain and bywhen?
(We call this “the reality check.”)Communities have become so popular that they are requested without a lot of thought to their strategic valuecompared to their costs. More than ever, people have the opportunity to participate in many more communitiesthan they have time or attention. So sometimes the answer may be “we don’t need or should not build acommunity.” Or “let’s build on what already exists elsewhere.”By discussing the three questions above with your boss or sponsor, you are laying the groundwork for a gooddecision.
If your boss or sponsor resists these conversations, ask them what they expect as outcomes and howthey expect them to be measured. This will often give them enough pause to stop and listen to you and engagein these important questions. If they still have difficulty with the questions, stop again and ask them to thinkabout their own personal life. Where do they go to learn about something important to them - such asparenting, or dealing with elder care. Chances are they will begin to tell you a story about a community. Askthem to describe what is valuable about that community. Then the conversation may shift. Sometimes we justdon’t connect abstract ideas with real practices and this can get us into trouble before we even start...Do you think you should forge ahead? Read on...
The Three Legs of the Stool (Overview)
While we aren’t going to get theoretical with you, experience has show that it is helpful to have a framingconcept and language to talk about our practices. For our community work, we are borrowing from theCommunities of Practice literature which talks about the three pillars of a CoP: domain, community andpractice. (See Etienne Wengers work athttp ://ewenger .com /theory /index .htm). We’ve reframed these to some
“day to day” language of ●What we care about (Purpose)●Who cares about it (People)●What and how we do things together (Practice).