Communities of Practice: Conversations to Collaboration

I’ve was pleased to be invited to do a keynote presentation at the NHS eSpace Coordinators conference earlier this month.  I wanted to emphasise the importance of the Coordinator’s role in building trust within a Community of Practice (CoP), and as a catalyst for turning conversations into active collaboration.  I should note that I’m more familiar the term ‘Community Facilitator’, for this role, and have used the term ‘facilitator’ and ‘coordinator’ to mean the same thing, i.e. the person or people who support, manage and guide the CoP members in achieving their goals. Perhaps a better description for this role is ‘community cultivators’,  since it is they who provide the conditions for the CoP to grow and flourish.

I can’t over-emphasise enough the importance of this role and the people who perform it. The difference between a vibrant and successful CoP and one that meanders aimlessly with little or no contributions is down to the facilitator (or coordinator, moderator, cultivator). Members of the CoP have been sufficiently motivated to join the CoP; it is up to the facilitator to inspire the members to connect, collaborate and co-create.  I tip my hat to all of those who do this successfully, and quite often without due recognition or reward. Something I hope will change as more and more organisations are turning to this way of working and have realised that technology alone does not provide a successful learning and sharing environment.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who is willing to share examples of how active facilitation (e.g. guided learning) has helped their CoP, and/or what makes a successful Facilitator.

The slides are available for download from Slideshare, and reproduced below:


9 Comments

  1. Nice slides. I have to go an talk to a council in less than two weeks about communities of practice and how to make one work. I may borrow some slides.

    January 25, 2009
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  2. […] Communities and Collaboration » Communities of Practice: Conversations to Collaboration Steve Dale writes about the role of a community facilitator, manager or co-ordinator. Whatever you call it, the person who holds it all together and helps others collaborate. (tags: communities.of.practice) […]

    January 26, 2009
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  3. Kim Wilson said:

    Steve,

    This is a beautiful and really impressive site. For folks in other sectors who are trying to implement CoPs, is the software platform you are using available for purchase or license? I noticed on the presentation that a pilot using Drupal was not successful – what did you finally end up using?

    February 5, 2009
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  4. Steve Dale said:

    Dear Kim,

    yes, the application is available for license and can be implemented as a white label (own branded) website. Licence is a one-off 5k GBP. I’ll drop you some details in a separate email.

    The site is a bespoke development running on DB2, with IBM Websphere servers, coded in J2EE. Code is portable to just about any environment.

    Best wishes

    Steve

    February 8, 2009
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  5. Hi Steve, I liked your slideset. We tried to make what a facilitator might do (our style that is by the way) more explicit in a long article called from a meeting to a community of practice. You can find it on scribd or published in the journal of facilitation.

    February 17, 2009
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