Alice MacGillivray

Supporting Leadership & Knowledge Work Across Boundaries

Archive for Community development

June 14 twitter Un-chat: Facilitating Scheduled Online Activities

On June 14, we will have the 4th BC Campus-hosted Online Community Enthusiasts’ Gathering. This is primarily a f2f event, but we will do more than tweet with the hashtag (this year it is #OCE2012) to hear from, and share with online community enthusiasts around the world.

This year’s theme is facilitating scheduled activities. Here is a link to more information.

This year we are organizing an Un-chat. Between 2 and 3 pm Pacific we will use this hashtag to pose approximately four questions. So far, it sounds like a regular twitter chat, right? But the questions will emerge through the event. The first question will have come up through an open space process in f2f event. Subsequent questions may come from the chat or backchannel online communication, or people in the room, or some synthesis of these sources.

There will be a prize going to the person who stirs up thinking most effectively from a distance (yes, it will be a subjective onsite decision!)

Please spread the word in your networks to people who play in these spaces and would like to learn with us.

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Who’s In & Who’s Out?

A comment by John Lebkowsky in twitter about democracy standing in line piqued my interest and led me to his blog post about e-democracy.org’s 125-member United States issues forum, which is described as “a civil, more deliberative discussion of national public policy issues and politics in the United States among people with diverse political perspectives.” After receiving an automated message from the forum (he had attempted to share thoughts more than once in a 12 hour period) he wrote: “The implication is interesting: democracy is not about enabling discussions, but restricting them. From their perspective, I suppose the idea is that an unrestricted list will be dominated by a few voices. Savvy online communitarians know that every forum will have a few vocal members, though, and many more observers who rarely if ever speak.” (As a post script, I have learned that the organizers are consciously experimenting and this situation may change.)

Later in my afternoon of intermittent lurking, I came across this blog post about biases against lurkers. It explains how a community tried to exclude anyone who was not visibly active and drew a humorous parallel: “How about if Wikipedia limited access to only those who had contributed on a definition?”

I recall years ago in a CPsquare Foundations Workshop helping a group that wanted to dispel some prejudice through a project they called: “Let’s get more positive about the term lurkers.” I guess that work still has some room for application.

I wonder about the leanings of the people crafting these rules (degree of introversion, degree of desire for control, affinity for rules or software “solutions”). I wonder if they do similar things in their living rooms: “Now remember, you have to leave if you don’t talk…and don’t forget you can only speak once in 5 minutes.”

Tensions Between Differentiation and Boundary Blurring

The World Cafe is a lot like the “Blind Men and the Elephant” in that it can be viewed in so many ways (as part of knowledge management, dialogue, deliberation, public engagement, social justice work, organizational development, and so on).

Juanita Brown, who developed The World Cafe concept in theory and practice, is like many professionals in these fields: she has been generous with her ideas. There seems to be a healthy degree of adaptation and customization around elements of TWC practice (and arguably work that stretches the boundaries a bit too far or purports to be the work developed solely by consultants who have stamped similar activities with their own brands). I am always aware of the tensions, risks and benefits around differentiation and the blurring of boundaries.

David Gurteen is another generous practitioner whose work I respect. He runs what he calls knowledge cafes. In January (2010) Singapore blogger “thinkaloudalot” contrasted The World Cafe and Knowledge Cafes.

How does your experience with The World Cafe or Knowledge Cafes map with his thoughts?

What are your thoughts about pros and cons of differentiation and boundary blurring with concepts such as TWC and KCs?

Digital Habitats & Tech Stewardship

If you are interested in communities of practice and related technologies, there is an exciting new book in print. Recently, I wrote a review of the book through a complexity lens, which you can find here.

The authors’ blog about the book is here and a nifty little online interview about it (Ward Cunningham interviewing John D. Smith) is on YouTube.

As a PS; Nancy White called my attention to blog posts on a similar topic by Chris Rodgers.

Bridging KM and D&D

This morning, Sandy Heierbacher of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) asked about my views on the intersections of knowledge management (KM) and dialogue and deliberation (D&D). Briefly:

I think the fields have considerable overlap, but have been isolated from one another for several reasons. The networks of practitioners don’t overlap much, knowledge management work is associated with organizations much more than communities and society, and dialogue and deliberation work is associated with the public, communities and society much more than with organizations.

Their purposes are similar. Knowledge management can help people in organizations make better decisions: decisions based on learning, context, varied input…and decisions that are better understood and more readily adopted. Here are obvious links with deliberation. KM can also help people in organizations generate new knowledge and enable innovation. Again, deliberation has the potential to generate knowledge that gives us a new way of looking at intractable problems.

Tools are similar. Sometimes they overlap directly (World Cafe, for example).

They both have many layers. I still enjoy Karl Wiig’s piece about the four facets of KM, including the social movement layer.

There are many ways in which the fields could learn from each other, including:

  • underlying theories
  • enhancing dialogue in KM processes
  • using KM practices to learn about D&D
  • getting support to work across boundaries
  • comparing and contrasting practices & tools
  • measuring value
  • finding new ways of thinking about value
  • supportive social media
  • sharing of innovations in different settings.

For people familiar with D&D and less familiar with KM, here is a wonderful site with KM resources by David Gurteen. For those more familiar with KM, sample sites include the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), the International Association for Public Participation and the Kettering Foundation. Several organizations and universities offer workshops and programs in both fields; I’ve taken the D&D program from Fielding.

What makes a blog post/tweet valuable?

I am working with a group of talented and respected leaders, most of whom have not worked with technologies such as forums, discussion groups, blogs, wikis, communities of practice platforms, etc.  They have an online space in which they are starting to post some questions, comments and resources.

Several have asked me what makes a post valuable or meaningful. I thought it only fair to ask some of my virtual colleagues for their views, so I asked via twitter (@4KM) and CPSquare Thanks to Barb McDonald, Brenda Kaulback, Brian J. McNely, Christina Merl, Jas Darrah, Jenny Mackness, John D. Smith, Joitske Hulsebosch, Sibylle Noras, Tony Burgess (also Nancy Dixon and his CompanyCommand colleagues), VMaryAbraham and others who may join this conversation in the future.

The attached file — meaningful-posts is my effort to synthesize and quote their ideas.

Knowledge Management Research in Africa

I noticed on twitter that “elmi” was trying to assemble a list of South African KM publications. The community KM4Dev could be helpful. I also thought it would be interesting to see what would come up in a quick search using the more generic term “Africa” for KM work.  I found more than expected, and have just scratched the surface. The link below shows a few of the existing papers (not filtered to exclude work that might better be described as information management).

km_africa_partial_list