When do you know it’s a community?

I have been part of CPsquare (http://www.cpsquare.org) for a number of years. It was a gathering of people working in CoPs and envisioned to be a community of practice.  For the first two years or so  I did not have sense of it as a community. We had a hundred plus members but struggled to have clear ties and to be more than a loosely tied group that talked together online. Then after a few years (in early  2006) we had an event to explore Web2.0 tools in CoPs and called for members to help host, promote and manage the event. People really stepped up to take leadership and support roles and a large globally distributed team pulled off what was a very successful month long event. I really had a sense that through these activities (or what lead to them) that we had finally become a community and were able to rely on each other, to make room for each other and to enjoy a successful shared experience. It is difficult to say that whether this event was a cause or a proof of community 9or both) but it was my first real sense that we had evolved into something more than a dialogic space. I sat back after the event and reflected that many people had really worked for the good of of the group and each other, and to me the sense of community was palpable.

For me the two things surface out of my reflection:

  1. the opportunity to step up and step into roles – that this event provided.
  2. the shared sense of the value of being together – that evolved through the activity

To me these are very important components but what’s your experience of how much is community development is linked to the roles and shared experiences we as facilitators/conveners offer? Are events like this an essential part of the community building? Is this what Leigh Blackall is doing with our group in the FOC08 course?

When the thesis was done!

Ok, so it’s time almost a year later and way past time to get into and explore many more things, some less academic and some found in the bridge between theory and practice. For me research is only important if it advances the practice. For that reason I have kicked off a new blog-centred experience to share some of the knowledge gleaned in my doctoral research. Community Capers will focus on showcasing successful Internet-mediated communities of practice but will do it in ways that no academic tome could hope for. We will hang out is Second Life with community members, meet them live in Learning Times, hear from members and managers as guest bloggers and hopefully build our own small community around a Facebook group, and over each month together produce a publication as a case study of community.

The first community will open its doors to us for the month of June and then each month we will hold our capers about in new community. Not sure how it will all work out but it is an idea I have held for a long time and I finally have the time and brain space to bring it to life. Wish me luck and come on over and offer support!