Experience + Value Add
It is imperative to understand what members are seeking in joining or engaging with the community, and to meet this need - even as the need evolves. Provide mechanisms for participants to both give and get. Continuously invite feedback from participants to evolve your ecosystem of benefits and resources, ensuring fresh content is aligned with current community needs as well as overarching values/purpose.
Meet (evolving) member needs.
You come to a community because you need something - often something quite specific - and that is going to change over time. So the challenge is continuing to find ways for the community to grow, provide value, and remain relevant as people grow and mature in whatever the topic is, and continue to have a reason to come back (Alexandra Pickett).
The ability to help community members meet their unmet needs seems to be an essential element of nurturing and sustaining communities of practice. What Alex just said about the changing/evolving needs of community members is what I've also seen: members come and go as their needs and their lives evolve (Paul Signorelli).
Each person comes to the community of practice seeking something specific, and so the biggest challenge for ID2ID program is being able to match people for the partnership program who have similar goals / value points (Angela Dick).
Foster connection and belonging.
It’s about creating that family for yourself, finding your people, and being able to connect. There’s also an emotional sense of security that comes along with a community of practice, in knowing that there are people in the trenches with you. (Samantha Becker).
There is so much power in the ‘community’ part of the community of practice (Jenna Olsen).
You truly realize the value of your community when you need them; to have a group of like-minded thinkers to help you think through a problem, situation, idea (Nancy Rubin).
Use technology to connect people.
Use technology that supports the community. An essential element of fostering successful communities of practice that thrive synchronously as well as asynchronously. When we use tech that provides opportunities for people within a community to have individual (e.g., private chats during live sessions) as well as group chats through shared chat spaces while videoconferencing is underway, we foster stronger connections and collaborative opportunities within the community -- to the benefit of community members and those we serve (Paul Signorelli).
Develop mechanisms to give and get.
Build mechanisms for people to engage, to give to, and to get from the community, mechanism to allow people to have a variety of experiences with community and get a variety of values from the community (Alex Pickett).
Identify, incentivize, and recognize community advocates (Nancy Rubin).
Create different mechanisms for recognizing people (Angela Dick).
We are using badges as a framework to recognize, support, cultivate, and incentivize certain behaviors and as a means to leverage the community itself to assist us in scaling activities and initiatives (Angela Dick).
Focus on outcomes.
Be outcomes-focused (Nancy Rubin).
The days of gathering and ruminating without outcomes are pretty rare. Seems that accountability is front and center. If we’re “on the clock” we need to “bring something home” - and that’s not a bad thing (Lisa Stephens)!
Produce things to share with the community, and beyond the community, to add value. Create relevant value/fresh new content regularly (Alex Pickett).
A community of practice should document what it does, and share it with people inside and outside the community - especially in short, consumable form (Christine Kroll).
Provide structure for possible outcomes.
It can be helpful to create a menu of potential community outputs/outcomes. For example, this CoAction Creates series output menu (Samantha Becker).
Some challenges we faced were maintaining the focus of the conversations and also producing outcomes that could help others who weren’t specialists (Cristiana Assumpcao).
Support volunteer outputs.
Provide opportunities for community-formed volunteer work groups to produce products. For example, openly license outputs or live streams, developed collaboratively with teams of SUNY volunteers from across the system (Alex Pickett).
Recognize that people will come and go.
We are continuing to experience (and nurture) an evolving form of community and evolving participants, and need to acknowledge the positive as well as sometimes sad results: sometimes we have to let people go; seeing people come and go is not necessarily a bad thing in the community. The key is keeping the door open for when they want to come back (Paul Signorelli).
Communicate the value of your involvement with the community.
How might we codify the bridge from “volunteering on an initiative” to meaningful return on investment within our respective institutions? Demonstrating the value of participation in a community of practice helps to create space in our busy schedules. I make a practice of pulling community of practice “suggests” back to my leadership - with attribution so they know where it came from (Lisa Stephens)!
Set participation expectations.
It really helps to define what it means to be a member/leader in the community of practice and the commitment that is expected. This will help members to better understand points of entry, expectations, and making sure their schedules permit the time to contribute. This also surfaces to those within the community which individuals are invested and the natural leaders within the community (Angela Dick).
Related Case Studies + Examples:
Many of the case studies reflect multiple, intersecting best practice categories. See the Examples/Case Studies section for additional examples.