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Collaboration and community

A good introduction to collaboration by Scott London. Wonderful read for anyone who wants to get a quick understanding into this popular topic.

"Despite the shortage of formal research on collaboration, however, there is a growing body of literature on the subject. This paper reviews some of the principal sources in order to better understand: What is collaboration? How does it differ from other models of cooperation? What are the prerequisites and dynamics of effective collaboration? What makes an effective collaborative leader? What are some of the obstacles to successful collaboration? And how do we create more collaborative communities? The paper includes an annotated survey of some of the key works on the subject."

Related article: Collaboration in Action: A Survey of Community Collaboratives

Teach the People- Facebook app for creating learning communities

From techcrunch:

"Teach the People is a Facebook application that provides a platform for online education. The application lets anyone with specific subject knowledge or a useful skill set share it by setting up a Teach the People learning communities with 1gig of free storage. The learning communities provide educators and students with all the standard learning management system tools that are standard on existing systems (Blackboard, Moodle), and some not so standard like video chat and VOIP."

Dave Snowden on Communities of Practice

Dave Snowden has an insightful post on how to get a community going. He suggests that we focus on the environment and not on 'therapeutic' support.

"My own view, itself derived from complexity theory is that you need to create an environment in which people can play with multiple tools, moving some of the results to a formal environment, when and if needed. With the growth of social computing and familiarity with those tools this easy to achieve."

More on online communities

The latest issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication is on online communities. Out of the nine articles, I endorse Stephen's pick: Online Communities: Design, Theory, and Practice.

J-learning: Building Communities

This initiative from J-Lab, institute for interactive journalism, "is designed to help individuals, civic groups and school groups jumpstart their own community media projects. It offers basic training in Web site creation, HTML, page design and use of photos, audio, video, animation, surveys and databases. It also offers tips on advertising, fundraising and e-commerce to help sustain these community efforts."

Interview with Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice

Video interview with Etienne Wenger on social learning, situated learning and identity. [via full circle]

Communities of Practice and Complexity: Conversation and Culture

An in-depth article looking at creating and sustaining communities of practices. Being an engineer myself, I like the relation to entropy and activity to explain the CoP process. [via Nancy White]

"The key to maintaining the creativity and inventiveness of a CoP, bearing in mind it is emotional energy we are speaking of, the CoP needs to be continuously challenged by problems that excite its members, and if this is not quite enough, by appropriate forms of leadership, which will be dependent on the context from which the CoP arose."

Communication dynamics: Discussion boards, weblogs and the development of communities of inquiry in

James Farmer provides this longish paper on how weblogs can play their part in facilitating communities of inquiry. I truly believe that weblogs and wikis, if implemented properly, can add value to the entire online learning experience, not only for students but also for instructors. The difficult part is trying to persuade instructors or academic decision makers to try this low-effort but high-presence technology. This paper can surely help in kick-starting the conversation. "The discussion board is the ubiquitous communication tool within these OLEs and hence significantly shapes the kind of communication that takes place. In light of this, the degree to which a successful community of inquiry can be facilitated through the use of discussion boards is examined and compared to the possibilities afforded by weblogs in the same role. Weblogs, it is argued, offer new opportunities in the development of social, cognitive and teacher presence online and should be considered in the development of or alongside established OLEs."

Blog on Community of Practice

APQC's blog on Community of Practice provides tons of real-world experience in building and sustaining these valuable organizational entities.

Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice:Engagement, Identity & Innovation

A very interesting commentary on CoPs by Wenger. I particularly like his notion following stories to determine the ROI of a CoP effort: "In terms of revenue generation, if you want to understand the value of a community, you have to follow the story of the knowledge that is generated. Through a mix of formal interviews and testimonies, you have to engage the practitioners in telling you the story of how the activities of the community have translated into new and better performance. When you do that, most communities come up with very good ROI."

Knowledge Communities in Japan: A Case Study

There is an interesting revelation in this case-study: the Japanese believe more in online knowledge communities than in face-to-face knowledge communities. There is also the story on how a single newsletter started a culture of knowledge sharing in Ricoh.

KM World: Personal Toolkit: Three thousand communities of practice

KM World: Personal Toolkit: Three thousand communities of practice

A case for personal KM: "Today there are many different definitions of personal knowledge management. But for me, the accusation that personal knowledge management is somehow antisocial or discounts the importance of collaborative learning and innovation is entirely inappropriate. The whole point is that collaborative work requires more of the individual

Thinking Shift: Viral Knowledge: can you “tip” a community of practice?

Thinking Shift: Viral Knowledge: can you "tip" a community of practice?

"This paper will examine communities of practice (CoPs) from a complexity perspective using the internationally best-selling book TheTipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell as a framework for discussion."

New Book: Knowledge Networks: Innovation through Communities of Practice

New Book: Knowledge Networks: Innovation through Communities of Practice

"There have been a large number of academic papers about Communities of Practice but, so far, only a few books. Most of the books have, by necessity, taken a rather theoretical approach. This book however will examine CoPs from a practical viewpoint; it is directed at the general reader rather than a specialist audience. Our aim is to draw on the experience of people who have researched and worked with CoPs in the real world and to present their views in a form that is accessible to a broad audience."

MIT Tech Review: India Turns to Community Computing

MIT Tech Review: India Turns to Community Computing

"cheap information kiosks are helping India bring computing power to the masses, providing a model for how to bridge the digital divide."

Internet Retailer: Community is out, blogs are in

Internet Retailer: Community is out, blogs are in

"Marketers are just now exploring the use of weblogs in customer-facing applications

BBC: Online communities get real

BBC: Online communities get real
"A study of online communities by UK think-tank The Work Foundation has found that the web is much more localised, more honest and less chaotic than original predictions thought. So-called social software - e-mail, messaging systems, weblogs and shared online diaries - is allowing people to make the net work for them and bring the virtual world home."

elearningEuropa: Inter-Organizational Communities of Practice

elearningEuropa: Inter-Organizational Communities of Practice
The experience gained in designing successful communities of practice within organizations is directly transferable to communities of practice that reach across organizational boundaries. However, one aspect needs particular attention. We have seen that a "culture of trust and openness" is needed to allow meaningful knowledge to be exchanged.
Comment: "Trust and openness" are absolutely crucial in developing any kind of human network, but there are distinctions between CoPs within organizations and CoPs across organizations. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid classify them as Communities of Practice (within organizations) and Networks of Practice (across organizations). Their classic paper, Mysteries of the Region: Knowledge Dynamics in Silicon Valley highlights this difference. They note that a crucial differentiator is the strength of the ties involved. For Networks of Practice it is the strength of the "weak" ties that leads to learning and innovation. A report from the Stanford Business Magazine--Innovators Navigate Around Cliques-- also gets to this conclusion.

Strategy+Business: The Tyranny of “Community”

Strategy+Business: The Tyranny of "Community"
In the midst of an ever increasing hype around community and social software, I find this Art Kleiner classic (year 2000) to be a calming read...
"If there is a sustainable way for corporations to embrace community, it starts, paradoxically, with the understanding that companies can never be communities themselves. People expect that a community will be committed to them, nurturing them and responding to their needs wholeheartedly. Corporations can't make that kind of commitment. They are too tied to special interests: the major stockholders, chief executives, and other "core groups" who must be satisfied by every corporate decision. Any company that pays its top executives more than, say, 25 times what its lowest-level people make will have a hard time casting itself credibly as a "community.""

Harvard Medical School: Evolving a Mob: Wireless Communities of Practice

Harvard Medical School: Evolving a Mob: Wireless Communities of Practice
"Based on experiences with Hiptop Nation, it appears that by having ubiquitous mobile data communication devices and a successful communal blog, it is possible to create an ideal environment within which a smart mob can grow into a goal-oriented mobile community of practice. Communal blogs play a critical role in the creation of three essential elements of community: the establishment of social capital, the creation of weak ties that foster creativity, and the formation of a sense of "place" within which everything can happen. The final crucial ingredient is a complex goal."
[Note: PDF, 170Kb]

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