Building relationships among users' is a crucially understated requirement for a thriving community of practice. Strong relationships offline help improve and drive online interactions. Collaboration doesn't just happen because a community has beautiful graphics or content that could be of interest to the community's users. In addition, there is no linear path to a prosperous community. Community managers should be comfortable to experiment with multiple approaches and best practices in improving community engagement. A great approach is developing pilot activities similar to similar to the agile software development process; there is a need to have a rapid and flexible response to change(Wikipedia).
Community development also requires a willingness to dedicate time and resources to guide your group, community through Tuckman's four stages of group development, (forming, storming, norming & performing).
A community of practice is a large team and "understanding why things are happening in certain ways on your team can be an important part of the self-evaluation process"(Stein, 2014). The process of building your community is similar to tending a garden. Collaboration within teams and across boundaries is a required competency for all staff in the new WBG working environment. As a result, there is need for a continual improvement of the bank's capacity to deliver to our clients, a business goal of the Collaboration for Development platform.
The question then becomes, how can we engage our key users in sharing knowledge?
Gibbons (2008) states,
"Maintaining close working relationships after the initial transfer of knowledge is critical for successful knowledge adoption"(p. 184).
Below is a recent interview with Rasha where she shared some insights on her path to success and some challenges she overcame on the journey there.
Interview with Rasha Rayes C4D Power CM Professional
- What Challenges do you have staying connected with your clients?
As the number of members increase it is getting harder and harder to understand their needs, to create value for each one of them, and to sustain their commitment and engagement levels.
- How do you spend most of your time?
That does differ from one phase to another. Now it is mostly on marketing and communicating with members both on public and private community spaces. We focus a lot on the informal “back channel” discussions and the everyday interactions to solve a problem, to put in contact and /or a one on one exchange of information. Which actually help us to arrange the public space and are the key to organize successful public events.
- How do you deal with Trolls?
It is important to distinguish between trolls and normal people who go through a temporary trollish moment. We always give them the benefit of doubts so we respond to a trollish comment and see what the person does. A troll will respond with anger, negativism, and hostility, but people who had a temporary trollish moment will make a reasonable response.
- How do we deal with them?
Trolls want attention, and the secret to withholding attention is consistency: never respond. But we don't just ignore them; we delete offensive or abusive material, with all respect to the right to freedom of speech and expression. Then we send them a private message and ask them to review the CoPs Norms, Etiquette and Policies.
- What’s your tip for Growing your community?
Patience is a key when growing and for managing an online community. Taking a strategic approach and spending time doing research to determine what it is that members are looking for and why would they want to join. Another key is speaking with your current members to determine what they would find interesting and what type of interaction seems to work best for them. After all your members are the best marketing tool you have.
- What are some examples of how to get lurkers to participate and engage?
First we need to be realistic and to accept that not all members will be active. Engaging members is not a procedure it is a long process that begins even before we start working on designing the layout of our community. Few examples: We make sure new members are welcomed. We sent them a welcome message in which we ask them to get involved immediately by introducing themselves under welcome and introduction. Also, in the discussions we asked our active members to reach out to other members within the community and to involve them in facilitating the discussion.
- Do you have to be an expert in the community domain to be respected as a community manager?
It is important to recognize that each community is different. Knowing your community, your members and understanding your project and the purpose of your CoP are the key elements to think about when you want to select your community manager.
In general I think it is important for community managers to be expert in the field. Yet, what is even more important is how they approach work in general. If they approach work collaboratively, are good listeners, like to make connections, can think on their feet and problem-solve well and enjoy interacting with others then they will be the agent of success and can reach experts in filed to cover all the technical questions and discussions.
- How has your Community helped the bank overcome business challenges or led into a knowledge product used by the bank?
The Community started with the aim of sharing knowledge and documentation about one specific project. All the knowledge products developed under the original project have been uploaded into the webspace and interaction started around those docs. Soon, members started uploading their own documents, proposing their own e-discussion forums and blogging about news and other projects going on around the world. All this energy started from one project and is now flooding into many other knowledge base activities the Bank is preparing. one for all the new agreement between the Bank and the Government of Japan on how to mainstream DRM in development policies, where a DRM Hub is created and the CoP will be kept and enforced as one of the main vehicle of knowledge exchange.
- What is the most important lesson learned from growing your community?
It is very important to create a sense of place for community members by engaging them in all different phases and throughout the process (design, structure, selecting activities..etc) Also, by recognizing their efforts, knowledge and expertise.
Gibbons, P., Zammit, C., Youngentob, K., Possingham, H. P., Lindenmayer, D. B., Bekessy, S., . . . Wintle, B. (2008). Some practical suggestions for improving engagement between researchers and policy-makers in natural resource management. Ecological Management & Restoration, 9(3), 182-186. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-8903.2008.00416.x
Stein, J. (2014) Using the Stages of Team Development. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from MIT Human Resources | Learning & Development -- Using the Stages of Team Development.
Wikipedia. (2014). Agile Software Development. Retrieved June 6, 2014 from Agile software development - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.