Talk:Planning a workshop to launch of a Community of Practice

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See the original thread of this E-Discussion on D-Groups: part 1, part 2

Johannes Schunter, 2009/04/03

Dear all,

I'm in the middle of planning a workshop (30 participants) which - among other things - is meant to initiate the launch of a Community of Practice with members of a UN agency and external partners.Besides some substantive sessions around issues of Capacity Development and sharing of experiences, we have session slots of altogether 4 1/2 hours to achieve the following with regard to a possible CoP:

Day 1: 1 hour 45 min

  • Explain what a Communities of Practices is
  • Review and discuss results of a needs assessment survey for the CoP which was done online prior to the workshop
  • Identify together with workshop participants further needs, possible benefits, priorities and possible challenges with regard to a new CoP
  • Define together what kind of CoP this should be:
    • To what extent the CoP should focus on problem solving, knowledge sharing, best practices and/or innovation
    • Discuss possible services and outputs
    • Discuss possible governance structure, meeting rhythms, etc)

Day 2: 2 hours 45 minutes

  • Formulate CoP vision statement
  • Formulate CoP charter
  • Formulate CoP governance structure
  • Identify core CoP group (3-6 people)
  • Define next steps

While I already have a sense of how to go about it, I would be most happy to receive your ideas and suggestions how to best achieve the above results. I would be particularly interested in

  • facilitation techniques to get the most effective input from participants with regards to their needs and priorities for the new CoP
  • facilitation techniques to develop concrete output documents (vision statement, charter and governance structure)
  • good ways to identify a core group to take ownership in nurturing and co-facilitating the CoP

Please also feel free to challenge the above agenda and point out additional or different things we should focus on or keep in mind!

Carl Jackson, 2009/04/03

Hi Johannes,

In two discussion in the last days the value to CoPs of a commonly valued concept, often captured in a diagram or short paper, that means a lot to a significant proportion of the potential members of the CoP has come up (thanks Evangelia and Alfredo for inspiration). This commonly valued concept has been called a 'boundary object' because it helps the community to experience the sense of a bounded space within which members have more things in common than standing outside it. This can then support the growth of trust and crowd in other like ideas and people. So a nice exercise for helping to create the vision would be to get people to create a map of the concepts that mean most to them in relation to this area of practice and where they are captured. You could do this by having groups of 3 brainstorm and capture on cards and then on the floor cluster cards and link with string. Then have a discussion about which are the 2 or 3 diagrams or papers that are most important to this community. You could then refer to the concepts they support and the documentary sources in your vision statement.

Christina Merl, 2009/04/03

Dear Johannes,

We did a 3 hour workshop the other day where we split a group of 24 people into three groups and gave them clear instructions. Each group worked with a coach and we applied different methods of structured storytelling to create the CoP spirit in this setting. The three groups got the same instructions but had to apply different methods -- then the results were compared and a joint vision was created. The advantage in this structured approach was that we got many different aspects and thoughts and points of view to one topic. Structured storytelling is a nice way of doing that. Another advantage is the group feeling you create, people are engaged in constructive, collaborative action.. which I think is an important basis for a joint vision statement. The instructions have to be such that they fulfill your purpose, of course.

Maybe that helps?

Joitske Hulsebosch, 2009/04/03

Hi Johannes,

Nice question. I've noticed it depends a lot on the group/professional culture what works best. So it's great you've done some needs assessment first. From the needs assessment you may have some idea about what may excite this group. From a quick glance through your topics it sound like you have a lot of 'meta' talk about communities of practice. What I would also try to include is a content topic. For instance let them talk about what excites them in their practice or about practice dillemmas. You can observe the energy and connections that are made there and use that later on too.

Sam Lanfranco, 2009/04/03

Hi Joitske & Johannes,

Having worked with various online communities of practice (e.g.travelmedicine, health promotion)for years I would like to share two lessons learned.

1. Figure out what is the core "glue" that holds the group together as a community of practice. What do they have in common that they currently recognize and attend to on almost a daily basis. Then build on, and out from, this core "glue". It is frequently a mistake to try to weld the CoP together based on common wish list (or "good idea") goals. All will agree, then sit back and do very little to move that list forward.

2. Have an watchful moderator who has the soft (velvet glove) skills of a social worker, a religious cleric (or psychologist) and a police person, to keep the group social dynamic on track while dealing with each participant's individual persona.

Caitlin Bentley, 2009/04/03

Hi Johannes,

You don't actually have much time do you? From my experience, I've had problems talking about needs and goals of CoPs when people aren't aware of the possibilities. On the first day, before getting in to specifics about what a CoP is etc. I would perhaps help the participants to talk about their work in a structured manner so that people can make connections amongst themselves and get to know each other better. Before the workshop, ask people to introduce themselves, their work, their biggest challenges, their priorities, something intriguing about themselves. Then you could have a better idea who might fit together with whom, and you could put them in groups to talk about their challenges together, perhaps then letting the needs and goals emerge. THEN, I would go into the 'what is a CoP', and explain 'hopefully you have found some common ground' with the other participants, and collect their opinions about what should come out of the CoP.

I think that the size of the CoP dictates how much you need to focus on relationship building. For example, in the KM4Dev CoP, there's a ton of us, so we don't need to know each other well because many people often answer one person's question, providing an array of answers. In a smaller CoP, relationship building needs to be a much bigger focus because people need to know what expertise can be located where, and how useful the interaction will be.

Lawrence Wasserman, 2009/04/08


Read your reply and was curious who was the woirkship for or who attended and what resuklts came about?

I attended with a CoP guru Wenger an online training program as in addition am a Certified Knowledge Manager from KMI here in Washington DC.

For your information I am working in mobile enterprise and say mKM the new KM where m is mobile.

Thats the future mobile communities and sharing of knowledge!

Looking forward to leanring more of what activities your engaged upon.

Johannes Schunter, 2009/04/09

Dear all,

Thank you so much for your valuable responses! They will be very helpful when going ahead with the planning of the workshop, as well as for future occasions.

I especially like the "glue" notion below, as I had similar experiences in the past where groups easily agreed on a wish list, but hardly committed to any specific participatory engagement.