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Meet and engage your community where they are; multi-channel engagement is essential, with multiple ways to consume, create, and share information. Consider a dedicated digital space for continuous and organized communication and collaboration.
Remember the 3 Cs: Communication, Collaboration, and Community.
Communication, Collaboration, and Community. It may sound a little “corny” but paying attention to this balance is how people feel (and create) ownership of outcomes. The whole becomes greater than the sum of individual effort, yet every individual plays an important role in building the community! (Lisa Stephens)
Communicate regularly and relevantly.
Communicate shared passion, values, and purpose. You need positive and not irritating regular communications, and content that is relevant and specific to the context and needs of the people in your community (Alex Pickett).
People need to feel that their input is valued (Lisa Koster). That’s why it’s so important for leaders to “talk up” the contributions of the group (Lisa Stephens).
Make it easy to participate.
It’s important to feel connected and to feel at ease contributing. (Nancy Rubin).
Well-defined calls to action can help make it easy to participate (Nancy Rubin).
Clearly layout the expectations of membership and how one might get involved or the points of entry. (Angela Dick)
Tailor engagement methods to your community.
Engage members by finding multiple methods for them to share their knowledge - not just multiple channels, but multiple response options (Lisa Koster).
Engagement may mean different things to different contributors and that can be a beautiful outcome for a community of practice (Angela Dick).
Ongoing engagement and participation is a big challenge (Nancy Rubin).
We struggle with getting people to engage between meetings. I am trying to use a combination of Teams (a tool similar to Slack) and face-to-face meetings to keep things moving. The challenge is to get people used to using this type of communication (Lisa Koster).
Collaborate in both synchronous and asynchronous ways.
Some collaboration works best when folks have a chance to go offline and think for themselves (Elan Paulson).
Set defined deadlines for any asynchronous work (Jenna Olsen).
Foster civil discourse and inclusivity.
Many of us seem to have lost the ability to engage in civil discourse with those whose opinions we don't share -- which makes me think that a commitment to civility is a basic starting point for any community of practice. If we exclude those with whom we don't agree, our communities of practice suffer (Paul Signorelli).
I sometimes fall back on the phrase, “tell me a little more about that point…” (Lisa Stephens).
I always go back to something Howard Rheingold wrote in "Netsmart": if we assume the best rather than the worst of intentions when we read/hear something with which we don't agree, we're setting ourselves up for potentially positive conversations/results. It's not about changing someone's mind: it's about have a broader foundation upon which to build (Paul Signorelli).
Engagement and inclusivity are related. When a group is not inclusive, members disengage (Lisa Koster).
Remember, when attempting to foster engagement and collaboration, that listening is as important as speaking (Paul Signorelli).
I try to follow two thoughts when listening, the rule of 80/20. Listening 80% of the time and only talking 20% of the time (Jenna Linskens).
Leverage individual strengths.
Be realistic about what you “bring to the party” to tap into authentic energy. Many thrive on satisfaction of detailed tasks well-executed, others frame “big picture” ideals and can align people to support the goals. If you’re a good note taker and thrive on social media - that’s just as important as someone convening meetings and identifying resources (Lisa Stephens)!
Establish processes to address conflict.
Differences in opinions and “strong personalities” sometimes bring tension to a community of practice. Provide opportunities for members to share issues or concerns, privately and safely (Elan Paulson).
Connect with other communities.
Think of your community as a node in a larger network - how can you connect to other communities? What can you offer each other? Remember that we are all working towards the same goal, so there should be plenty of cross-community collaboration (Jenna Olsen).
Open the community to membership beyond your individual group, organization, department, or institution (Alex Pickett).
Include people with perspectives from other sectors. Think about what your strategy is for making in-roads with other communities and other sectors (Cristiana Assumpcao; Samantha Becker).
Snowball member recruitment.
One challenge is missing members, inadvertently leaving people out who should have been included because they weren’t known about. The best way I have seen to manage this is to allow invitees to recommend additional members who should be included (Jenna Olsen).
It works well to start small, with those who you know are interested in participating in the community, and encouraging them to “bring a friend” to the next gathering, allowing the community to grow organically (Jenna Linskens).
Use the community as a resource.
I have a smaller staff. To me, having the SUNY community of practice - and now the CoAction community - extends my staff. I also get to interact with people who are doing the same thing as me, where my staff might not be (Christine Kroll).
Don’t be afraid to iterate.
As much as you want every initiative to succeed, sometimes they don’t, and it’s been a real benefit to consider what works and less-so when the next opportunity comes along (Lisa Stephens)!
Building a community takes time. Meeting new people, building relationships, fostering trust, and valuing and respecting other’s thoughts all takes time. It takes making a commitment to regular meetings across semesters and dedicating time for the purpose of building community (Stephanie Edel-Malizia).
Many of the case studies reflect multiple, intersecting best practice categories. See the Examples/Case Studies section for additional examples.