Social Business Communities of Engagement

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Engagement: The Foundation of Social Business

Co-creation Fuels Innovation in Social Business

The explosion of Social Media and the rapid growth of new Social Business Models are driving intense focus on community development and collaboration to fuel innovation in the co-creation of our future.

“The best way to predict the future, is to create it together.”

In a previous article we reviewed “7 Key Success Factors of Sustainable Social Business“.  Relationships play a key role in any business and in life itself.  Developing and supporting healthy relationships is the foundation of Social Business.  A complete guide to healthy communities  is available from The Open Source Way,  “Creating and nurturing communities of contributors“.  Here are the 7 principals for cultivating  communities for positive engagement.  Thanks to Michael J Ricard (@mijori23) for bringing this to my attention on Twitter today.

7 Principals for Cultivating Engaged Communities

1. Design for Evolution

When starting a new community effort, it’s difficult to know what form it will take. Volunteers are not employees; they can only be influenced, never ordered. Some may take passionately to the proposed project; others may only be able to give some of their time. [evolution]

2. Open a Dialogue Between Inside and Outside Perspectives

In any community there are always “insiders” — i.e., the people who understand the problem space very well, the people who are at the core of the domain space — and people who are “outsiders”, but have enthusiasm, some domain knowledge, and a willingness to help. A successful community uses both of these perspectives effectively, because it’s the outsiders who are most likely to impart new energy and new perspectives.  [dialogue]

3. Invite Different Levels of Participation

In a volunteer community especially, people who join are going to be invested in learning more and doing more, and it’s important to identify work that matches the newbie’s skills, invites them to stretch those skills, and provides people who can help them develop those skills as required. [participation]

4. Develop Both Public and Private Community Spaces

Avoiding the cabal mentality does not mean having every single conversation in public, ever. Transparency is great, but it is unreasonable to expect everyone to be comfortable with full transparency, all the time.

Also, one-to-one communication builds intimacy and trust that multiway communication cannot. Especially as new participants are building confidence, it’s vitally important to build private relationships between individuals. Certainly it is appropriate to encourage important conversations to be moved into public forums, especially conversations about actions that will affect others. But private chats are important too, and often useful for eliciting insights that help move the more public conversations forward. [spaces]

5. Focus on Value

No volunteer wants to spend time on work that nobody values. Therefore, encourage community members to express the value that they receive from the community, and to reflect on the value that they provide.

Also understand that not everyone’s notion of value needs to agree; so long as participants do not actually detract by participating, they should feel free to add value in whatever way they see fit. Core participants frequently do not value a set of contributions initially, and only come to understand and appreciate that value later. Even contributions that are wildly experimental and far from the mainstream, and may not seem at all valuable, should be respected and encouraged. [value]

6. Combine Familiarity and Excitement

Stable and familiar working processes are vital, because people need tasks to focus their day-to-day work.

Still, people can not thrive on heads-down tasks alone. Exciting new challenges create opportunities to energize old friends and attract new ones, and give volunteers an important sense that they are all wrapped up in a great and important challenge. This excitement is crucially important to keep volunteers motivated on the daily work. [excitement]

7. Create a Rhythm for the Community

The pace of engagement is crucially important in a community of doers.

Moving too quickly and demanding too much, too soon, can leave volunteers frantic and feeling like they can’t keep up. Moving too slowly can lose volunteers who do not see enough activity to hold their own interest. [rhythm]

Community Development Guide

The complete community development guide helps people understand how to and how not to engage with community over projects such as software, content, marketing, art, infrastructure, standards, and so forth. It contains knowledge distilled from years of Red Hat experience.

Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice

In his book Cultivating Communities of Practice, Etienne Wenger proposes seven principles for successfully cultivating communities of practice. Anyone who is responsible for moving a community forward towards its goals should consider reading it.