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.
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?