Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rationale and Roles for collective intelligence

I found myself going back and re-listening to a small segment of an interview with Henry Jenkins, a thought leader in the area of technology and its implications for education. So I decided to transcribe the bits of it I thought were important.

What I like is how he articulates the underlying rationale for collective intelligence (which is a foundation of Communities of Practice) and articulates the kinds of roles we each need to play in order for it to be successful.

“We assume everyone is an autonomous learner, everyone knows everything.” We know in a world of collective intelligence of social networks, everyone will know some things and what each member knows is available to the group as needed, that involves developing a new ethic of knowledge production, vetting, taking responsible for what you know, ensuring the accuracy of the information you communicate to others, having the responsibility to share what you know with others, taking accountability for people who share information that you know is wrong and correcting it. Then we have a self-correcting collaborative environment. It is different than the autonomous learning model that shapes more of our schools today. “ Henry Jenkins on Edutopia Click on the link called “shifting roles in the classroom” to hear the whole segment.

I wonder what the impact on a CoP would be of 'training' or 'reminding' Community of Practice (CoP) members what roles they need to play in order for the CoP to be successful? Anyone trying it?


Friday, August 28, 2009

Listen, Respect, Build Relationships

Watching CNN this morning and the author of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, spoke about his time visiting rural villages in Afghanistan. When asked what he thought would bring about a solution to the conflicts in Afghanistan he shared that the US Army General had communicated to him three bullet points that were of central importance.

1. Listen - listen to people and understand what they think, what they want, what they think would help

2. Respect - treat everyone with respect, no matter how different they are from you and your values

3. Build Relationships - the key to change is building relationships. Why three cups of tea? Local Afghan folklore says after the first cup of tea you are no longer strangers, after the second cup of tea, you are friends, after the third cup of tea, you are family.

It takes time to have conversations that are deep enough to create a changed relationship and a changed reality but it is possible. It is not a quick fix but it can be a lasting tranformational cultural change.

As Meg Wheately articulates in her book: Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future "There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about."

“Good conversation connects us at a deeper level. As we share our different human experiences, we rediscover a sense of unity. We remember we are part of a greater whole. And as an added joy, we also discover our collective wisdom. We suddenly see how wise we can be together.” (page 28)

As community facilitators -- for community organizing, network weaving or community of practice facilitation for learning -- these same three bullet points apply. They are the core of our work.

Is it easy no? This is very hard and complex work. Is it worthwhile, always!


Friday, August 07, 2009

The importance of early scheduling for CoP

I can’t believe the summer is already drawing to a close and we are looking at the upcoming year of work. I wanted to send a reminder to all of us working on scheduling Communities of Practice sessions (CoP) for the upcoming year about the importance of setting meetings dates as early as possible -- it cannot be underestimated.

The reality is that we all are pulled in many directions in both our personal and professional lives and are balancing a host of commitments. The earlier a group makes a commitment to a particular set of dates the more attendance will be maximized.

Unfortunately I have seen in my own work with CoP that some CoP have everything going for them but a scheduling conflict prevents an important member of the community from participating and is a loss for everyone. In some of my CoP it took a few years until the group experimented with and found the date and time that maximized participation.

It is frustrating to have something as trivial as scheduling be responsible for diminishing an important and promising initiative and yet it happens. So I encourage you to set the dates for your CoP meetings as soon as possible.

All the best for a productive year of learning.


Community Building - Gardening vs. Landscaping

Amy Sample Ward has a wonderful opinion blog in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on how community building is more like gardening than landscaping. I think she captures succintly in this timely garden metaphor the art of community building and something I had been musing on recently as I watched the first, one and only tomato growing in my city garden.

"The Gardener creates an ecosystem open to change, available to new groups, and full of fresh opportunities to emerge naturally. The approach is focused on organic collaboration and growth for the entire community. The gardener is simply there to help, cultivate, and clear the weeds if/when they poke up.

The Landscaper creates an ecosystem that matches a preconceived design or pattern. The approach is focused on executing a preconceived environment, regardless of how natural or organic it may be for the larger area. The landscaper is there to ensure that everything stays just as planned.

The first question I always ask myself when considering a new tool or functionality online, a new project or campaign, or even new partnerships or members is: “Is this something the Community wants or something I want?” It doesn’t matter what I want, really. It matters what the Community wants. And how do you know if or what they are interested in? ASK!"

If I might add to the metaphor something I have been reflecting on as I have been checking my tomato every few days and noticing, with delight, it growing slowly in size and beginning to change color as it ripens. Gardening (and community building) invite you to pay attention to and celebrate small incremental changes. Over time these small changes add up to the whole complex and fascinating environment of a garden -- or a community.


P.S. Thank you to Lisa Colton of DarimOnline for sharing this with me.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Community on YouTube - Michael Wesch

Welsch articules the phenomenon of Cultural Inversion:
We express individualism, independance and commercialization
We value community, relationships and authenticity

According to M Scott Peck (who wrote in the 80's and 90's - source wikipedia ) the process of conscious community building involves:
1) building a shared story
2) consensual decision making
3) respect for all individuals
4) inclusivity of difference

What do these have in common with the kind of community Welsch talks about on You Tube? Below are some thoughts that just begin to address the complexity.

Shared Story: There is definitely a shared story as people are building on what they see when when they remix and imitate each other's videos.

Respect for Individuals: There seems to be an implicit respect for individuals and inclusivity of difference. A lot of shared values are expressed. Yet the trend toward hatred as public performance that comes from anonymity of you tube may fly in the face of the value of respect. Yet in an age of scarcity of attention, response is a form of respect.

Consensual Decision Making: "decisions are reached by seeking a consensus among active leaders and avoiding conflict where possible." Community traditionally involves mutual influence and a sense of commitment to what the community perceives as the greater good. In You Tube, decisions are made individually as people decide which videos they like and want to copy or pass on. You Tube decisions are neither consensual nor binding but rather individualistic and allow conflict to live side-by-side.

Inclusivity of Difference: Has the same tensions as 'respect.'

Summary: You Tube offers connection without constraints which is a new kind of freedom. Recognition, which I see as a key human need, is often fulfilled in community. Have people been living in isolation so long they have forgotten the mutuality of communties? Or, is the word 'community' being re-defined (or lost) like the word "friend' on facebook? Will the You Tube Community go through the traditional stages of group formation "Formin, Storming, Normin, Performin? Either way, the "You Tube Community," as Welsh articulates, is asking us to look again at what is possible for 'community.'


Tragedy "and Comedy" of the commons

This is an interesting perspective on the classic formulation of the tragedy of the commons. I quoted the 2 paragraphs directly from ECommerce Times - link at the bottom.

"In its classic form, the tragedy of the commons is illustrated by a scenario in which a shared pasture is freely available to all citizens for grazing their livestock. When acting from their individual self-interests, each citizen logically concludes that they should increase their herd. The tragedy of this scenario is that it inevitably leads to too many animals grazing, depleting the resources of the shared pasture to the detriment of all. As Garrett Hardin wrote in Science magazine (December 1968), "Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest."

Notions from the traditional world of physical property, however, do not always run parallel in the Internet-enabled, digitally-based world of intellectual property. For example, often the value of a digital resource can dramatically increase as the result of more individuals using it -- a scenario dubbed by Carol Rose as the comedy of the commons in the University of Chicago Law Review (1987). In other variants, especially those popularized by Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig, each individual participant adds to the intellectual commons, thereby enriching the resources available to all.

Different Kinds of CoP Leaders

As we move into a new phase of development within the Kehilliyot CoP that I facilitate, we are beginning to recognize each other, the talents and strengths of our colleagues. There are many ways to lead in a CoP and we are seeing many of these emerge. Below is a description of the different kinds of leadership within a CoP from an article by Etienne Wenger and I have tried to apply it to the leaders emerging within Kehilliyot.

Internal leadership in communities

The inspirational leadership provided by thought leaders and recognized experts
The day-to-day leadership provided by those who organize activities
The classificatory leadership provided by those who collect and organize information in order to document practices
The interpersonal leadership provided by those who weave the community's social fabric
The boundary leadership provided by those who connect the community to other communities
The institutional leadership provided by those who maintain links with other organizational constituencies, in particular the official hierarchy
The cutting-edge leadership provided by those who shepherd "out-of-the-box" initiatives.

This summer: Hayim Herring is providing inspirational leadership, Esther Brown and Gayle Bloom are providing classification leadership, Rebecca Egolf and Phil Liff-Grief are providing cutting-edge leadership, Stefanie Zelkind is providing institutional leadership and Marci Eisen is providing interpersonal leadership. And there are many others who provided this kind of leadership in past months.

Who are the leaders in your community? Do you recognize them? Do they recognize themselves? Do others recognize them?

Thank you to the Covenant Foundation for supporting this CoP and to the WikiUniversity Course on Online Facilitation for renewing my acquintaince with this article by Etienne Wenger

Learning - Facilitating Online Communities

My passion is learning. Facilitating the learning of others and my own learning. So I am jumping in headfirst - to the course on Facilitating Online Communities.

I have been working for the past 7 years facilitating Communities of Practice and coaching others in learning to do so. I believe profoundly in the power of f2f. But I cannot deny the importance of online learning and so, after tackling my own resistance, I am going to jump in and try to expand my skills and be able offer more to those I work with as well.