Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Essential Roles for Communities of Practice

At the recent National eXtension Meeting, several representatives from the “pioneer” eXtension Communities of Practice participated in a panel to discuss “lessons learned”. As I reflected on our experiences the last few years, and on the talks at the meeting, a lesson that popped into mind was “Letting people lead in their areas of passion”. This gets at the need for shared or distributed leadership in important roles within the CoPs.

What are these roles? Here is what I came up with:

  • Community Minders
    Those who focus on keeping CoP members engaged and connected. They would pay attention for the need for communication, and would be the first point of contact for those needing information. They would help recruit, welcome, and orient new members by formal (e.g., newsletters) and informal (ad hoc emails and phone calls) means, and would help plan virtual and face-to-face meetings.

  • Evaluation Wonks
    Those who serve as the “conscience” of the CoP, who remind us of the overall goals of the program and the need to be accountable by documenting our impact.

  • GuruGeeks/TechnoTerrors
    Those with an affinity and aptitude for tinkering “under the hood” (i.e., in the Wiki). They might facilitate or take over the entering and formatting of content, lead the development of new applications, or be the liaison with web designers and programmers in applying technology to the CoP’s content.

  • Google Juicers
    These may be GuruGeeks/TechnoTerrors, but their specific mission would be in the area of “search engine optimization (SEO)” – they would put content into web form, and monitor and modify content to conform to SEO “best practices”.

  • Web Evangelists/Net Nobbers (for “Network Hobnobbers”)
    Those who would focus on external communication (with Communities of Interest) by participating in online social networks using Web 2.0 tools. They could have two related goals: (1) dispel myths and misconceptions about child development and parenting by promoting research-based information, and (2) promoting the CoP as a source for research-based information.

There are other important roles, of course (e.g. fund raising!) but I offer these as starting points. Where do you fit in?


Robert Hughes Jr, PhD said...

I think the "community minders" role is very important at this stage of development. This is a new activity and people are becoming engaged. We need to harness the talent and interest of these new participants.

Dissident said...

I believe a more common term for Community Minders is 'Community Facilitators'. These are essential for keeping the CoP in track and ensuring members' need are met. We've invested a lot of time and energy in supporting and training facilitators for the 350 online CoPs on the IDeA community platform ( You might also want to check out Nancy White's blog over at Full Circle Asociates - she's written a lot about online facilitation.

rebecca said...

I moderate a listserv for a professional organization using a web based interface. Originally, I volunteered as a moderator because I was more technosavvy than the average early childhood director in the organization. Now I see that the tools for communicating online are changing- I have to keep updating my technology skills if I will continue to be useful as a facilitator of communication in the online realm for my community of practice.