Category Archives: CPsquare News

PhD on Communities of Practice Student Group is getting started

Are you a doctoral student doing research related to Communities of Practice?

We are a group of doctoral students and about-to-be doctoral students attending various universities around the globe. We are members of a virtual CoP who share resources via Diigo, discuss our own research on CoPs and strategize about the challenges of doctoral students in several forums such as:

  • What’s Under the Bell Jar?,
  • Issues of Doctoral Student Life,
  • Proposals, and
  • PhD Musings.

We also have a PhD support group that meets via phone conference once a month. We are also planning some special events for the fall semester. If you are a potential doctoral student, you are welcome also. We are developing a wiki with information about universities you might want to consider if you are interested in doing research related to Communities of Practice.

If you would like to join our Community of Practice, we are just organizing and would love to have your participation. Membership is open to all members of CPSquare. If you are already a member, you will find our forums under “Projects” on the CPSquare website. If you are not a member, we invite you to join CPSquare, which has many other activities and benefits as well. Click here: CPSquare Membership.

If you have questions, please email us at cp2phd (at) cpsquare (dot) org.

NOTE: We also don’t mind hearing from those of you who have jumped this hurdle  — experience is a great teacher and we value the knowledge of those who have obtained their PhDs already.

Conversations, reflections, field trips, workshops

August is turning out to be a busy month for CPsquare members: we’re visiting with a community leader from a big software company, reflecting with Etienne and Beverly on the on multiple layers of the BEtreat that they hosted during July, and we’re wrapping up a year of inquiry around business models for public communities of practice

Our next Quarterly Field Trip is on Wednesday August 18, 2010 at 18:00 GMT to Healthy Minds – Healthy Campuses community, which has the goal of promoting peer-to-peer learning about issues related to campus mental health and healthy substance use amongst British Columbia post-secondary students. Members include students, professors, counselors, human rights advisors, disability advocates, administrators, residence life staff, and researchers. Public participation in our quarterly field trips is encouraged!

Announcing: Community Seeding 2.0a short conference on community launch strategies and cases that are based on introducing Web 2.0 tools. It starts August 23, 2010 and you have to join CPsquare to participate.

In September we’ll run the Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop for the 30th time! We keep offering it because every time has its refinements and unique challenges. This time we’re welcoming several people from Latin America with whom we’ll explore many of the issues that come up with multi-lingual and multi-cultural communities. Actually the following explanatory text is interesting in that it has evolved in English over many years, I then used Google Translate to make a first draft in Spanish, I edited it extensively and found that Microsoft Outlook had very helpful Spanish grammar and spelling corrects, after which two of the participants in the upcoming workshop suggested further changes! Here is the invitation in Spanish, which you might share with any Spanish-speakers who might be interested:

El próximo taller sobre los elementos fundamentales de las Comunidades de Práctica se ofrecerá en línea a partir 13 de septiembre. Dirigido por Etienne Wenger, John Smith, y Bronwyn Stuckey, el taller se enfoca en lo que son las comunidades de práctica, cómo funcionan, por qué son importantes, y cómo pueden ser apoyadas, nutridas e involucradas para el beneficio de sus organizaciones y la sociedad en general.

El taller mismo contiene muchos elementos de una comunidad en un ambiente global y ocurre en-línea durante seis semanas. El taller le ofrece la oportunidad de considerar temas de las comunidades en general y familiarizarse con una serie de comunidades de práctica específicas, las cuales nos presentan colegas invitados u otros participantes en el taller.

La experiencia de trabajar juntos de esta manera nos inspira a todos y es algo que realmente no se puede obtener de un libro. Para muchas personas este taller ha sido parte de un cambio de carrera. Participar en el taller lanza colaboraciones de varias clases: algunos que participan regresan después como mentores, colegas invitados, o como miembros de CPsquare. En ese sentido, cuando se comparte en esta experiencia uno está entrando en una comunidad de práctica autentica que vive en la vanguardia de la práctica.

Además de trabajar en un proyecto de su elección con los demás, como participante tiene acceso a los proyectos que otros participantes han producido en los últimos años. (Esta será la 31ª vez que se el taller se ha ofrecido desde 1998.) Algunas muestras están disponibles, junto con noticias y otros detalles en el blog CPsquare:

El espacio del taller es como un plan de estudios y el calendario del taller también está diseñado como instrumento de aprendizaje:

La Participación en el taller consiste en conferencias asíncronas basadas en la web, en teleconferencias y reuniones organizadas participante a través de Internet. Los eventos sincrónicos (llamadas por teléfono, por Skype o por chat) ocurren durante las horas de trabajo. Algunas personas participan sólo 4 horas a la semana, pero otros pasan mucho más tiempo involucrados en las conversaciones y proyectos del taller. A menudo alguien trae algún proyecto en el cual están trabajando en su propio trabajo, y los demás se ofrecen como consultoría de alto nivel. Ese estilo de ayuda mutua en el taller tiene beneficios puede todos.

El idioma principal del taller es el inglés. Pero siempre hemos tenido participantes cuyo primer idioma no es el Inglés y en Septiembre del 2010, van haber varias personas de habla hispana (que están participando por primera vez, que están volviendo a ayudar como mentores, que son colegas invitados a dar una charla o montar una conversación especial, o que son parte del personal docente).

Los participantes en el taller provienen de diferentes industrias, países, y variado contexto organizacional, y de diferentes profesiones. Siempre invitamos a algunos colegas que tienen experiencias en el desarrollo de las comunidades de práctica en empresas o en organizaciones sin fin pecuniario. Los detalles y los formularios de inscripción se encuentran aquí:

R&D series: Final Note of Appreciation

As we try to reorganize and rename our R&D Fest series into a more regular and somewhat more leisurely activity called the R&D Series, we were lucky enough to have CPsquare member Grady McGonagill be the first one to jump in and help us re-think and re-work it. As Alice MacGillivray wrote, we thought it would be different and it proved to be engaging and productive in many ways.  It turns out that nobody could summarize how it turned out better than Grady himself, who posted the following very gracious note of summary and appreciation after he had recovered from a very intense week of conversation:

“I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for the privilege of having a draft of my study be the focus of a CPsquare R&D Fest. My gratitude extends to multiple levels:

  • To the entire CPsquare community for being contributors to the ecosystem that created this forum
  • To the many who participated in the Fest for their investment of time and energy
  • To the facilitators—Alice and Debra, and also John—for their skillful stimulation and guidance of the conversations
  • To those (John, Alice, Debra, Pem, perhaps others I’m not aware of) who took the remarkable step of reading the entire 80+ page draft
  • To John for the invitation to be the focus of the R&D Fest, for his behind the scenes encouragement of contributions, and for his creation and stewardship of this innovative community of practice.

“A number of specific benefits of participating in the Fest stand out:

  • Thoughtful challenges to the wisdom and value of framing the history of the Web in terms of Web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 were very helpful to me in thinking through my rationale for doing so. I’ve gotten clear that I wish to retain these distinctions (and include reference to Web 4.0, which I hadn’t heard of!), for their value in highlighting key features of the Web’s evolution, while stressing the limits and arbitrariness of making such distinctions in the way I frame an conclude the history. The exchange pushed my thinking to a “meta” level.
  • Challenges and affirmations of my warning about relying on the IT department were helpful in several ways. They deepened my understanding of the complexity and variety of IT dept roles, and the need to couch and qualify my recommendation in ways that acknowledge this. At the same time it affirmed the value of expressing my warning, perhaps even more strongly.
  • Challenges to my assertion that few if any organizations had achieved a learning culture generated a very useful discussion about learning that I continue to think about
  • Questions about the value and impact of a lengthy written document as a tool for achieving the Bertelsmann Foundations goals were helpful in encouraging my client Tina Doerffer and I to think beyond completion of the report to the creation of forums of various stakeholders for its discussion
  • Questions about the coherence and consistency of how I intend to portray the relationship between technology and leadership continue to be on my mind as questions to “live into” as I consider how best to frame the overall study and which themes to highlight.
  • I gained from reminders of work that I’m familiar with but could more directly draw upon (e.g., Drath and Palus on making meaning), introduction to new works and ideas (e.g., McCracken on culture, McCandless and Limpanowicz on “liberating structures”), and pointers to examples of practice that I was not familiar with (e.g., “mashup corporations,” Intel’s Planet Blue, Wipro in India).
  • And I benefited from Debra’s coaching on use of hashtags and introduction to tools such as Tweetchat and Twitterfall.

“Many of the benefits were less tangible, taking the form of seeds that will blossom over time and beyond the work on this particular study. Examples would be the wonderfully rich sidebar discussions on things like the work of David Snowden, which elicited lengthy contributions from Nancy and Alice. And it includes interactions and ongoing conversations about knowledge, learning, and complexity with several members.

“In the long term the greatest impact may be the deepening of my respect and appreciation for CPsquare and heightened interest in participating in this remarkable and unique Community of Practice. Thanks!”

Evolving practice around research and dissertations

CPsquare’s “Research and Dissertation Fests” were partly based on a strategy of trying to cope with the amount and variety of good work about communities of practice being produced out there.  We would try to create a reflective space to look at as much of it as we can and do so in a way that facilitates comparisons allows for one piece of work to spark insights around the others.

It turns out that the way we had organized the events was too intense.  For several years we held a 2 or 3 week series in which 7 to 12 people presented their work.  I assumed that nobody would actually try to participate synchronously in all of those events and that doing them in a short period of time would force people to choose, which was assumed to be OK.  We did a little polling and reflecting and have changed our practice.  By way of a report on the new format, here is a welcoming announcement by Alice MacGillivray:

Welcome to the first in a new series of research and development events with CPsquare member Grady McGonagill. Grady will present a draft report on leadership implications of the evolving web, which he is writing for the Bertelsmann Foundation. I’m Alice MacGillivray, one of the event hosts, and I’m sharing some of my perspectives on this event.

As you know, we have many learning events and processes in CPsquare. One ongoing tool is the “Help in Real Time,” forum. in which anyone can ask for advice on a current challenge. Another was “Dissertation Fests,” which morphed into “Research Fests” and have now grown into this “R&D Series” concept. I believe the event we are now launching has roots in both Research Fests and Help in Real Time, and therefore the potential for synergies from this overlap.

Grady has brought us a timely topic and format for the first event in this series, for several reasons:

  • The work is not yet complete, and we have often found dialogue about research-in-progress to be more provocative and multi-layered than presentations about completed research (no matter how excellent and informative those sessions have been).
  • Grady is modeling the opening of a consulting project, including the engagement of his client, into the CPsquare space. Imagine the potential for learning and excellence if CPsquare members regularly consulted with each other in this way. On the flip side, there may be some cautions about jumping into “someone else’s” consulting, and we might learn about such cautions and approaches during Grady’s event.
    • This project addresses at least two topics which are firmly woven throughout Community of Practice work: social media and leadership. We talk about both, but neither has been a dominant focus. As a meta-community of practitioners, we are used to working with ideas and with the real world: this event has the potential to stretch the boundaries of those conversations within CPsquare.

      Grady will be with us to pose some questions and engage in conversation, beginning Wednesday morning. I encourage you to introduce yourselves before we dig into Grady’s requests. A typical introduction is fine, but I challenge you to consider telling a story from which we can learn more about you as a person, your interest in the topic, and how you came to this gathering.

      Bring good questions, think about how you can learn from these exchanges, and enjoy the week.

      Alice MacGillivray, PhD

      Individual and collective practice

      Once a month we invite member of CPsquare to talk about their work: their job or current projects and the communities of practice or social learning issues that are currently coming up for them.  We launched the practice in January, 2010 and it has been a fascinating, informal and open-ended way for us to get to understand more deeply what kind of work people do .   People  talk about what’s difficult, challenging or rewarding about their work. They are invited to reflect on their experience, where they would like to go, and what opportunities or constraints they see.  We’ve heard from Sue Wolff in higher education, Jack Merklein from Xerox Business Services, Joitske Hulsebosch, an independent consultant from The Netherlands, Lauren Klein, a consultant from the US, and from Tony Carr, who is in higher education in South Africa.

      We have just finished spending almost 2 weeks with John Parboosingh, Professor Emeritus at the University of Calgary, Adjunct Faculty at the School of Nursing, Mount Royal University, and a community learning consultant in the healthcare area.   Here are a few of the items he shared:

      Here is a Wordle summary of our conversation:

      Bumping into friends

      One of the great things about the sustained connections we make through CPsquare is that when you bump into people in other settings there’s such a strong connection.  There are common interests, common vocabulary, and an extraordinary willingness to share insights.  Last week during the Yi-Tan Tech Call 274: on Digital Habitats, I noticed LaDonna Coy tweeting about it.  Afterward I wrote here, asking:

      I’ve seen your tweets off and on and wondered what you’re up to and was really excited to see that you were on the Yi-Tan call.

      How was it?  What was surprising?   I was wondering if you’d be up for sharing some reactions & thoughts — possibly even on the CPsquare blog.

      Here is LaDonna’s response:

      Hi John,

      I’ve got a colleague I work with (Ken Homer) out in CA and he has encouraged me to join in on the Yi-Tan calls for some time — when I saw it was you, Etienne and Nancy engaging in a convo about the new book — I just knew the time had come for me to be there. Now that I’ve had the experience I’m wondering how I can fit the call in more often?  If we don’t get a respectable outcome with our CoPs work, I may have significant free time on my hands, sigh. Surprising, provocative, intriguing — very much so.  Here’s my takeaways..

      • Considering the important truth that no matter what tech we choose (or don’t choose) we include some, exclude others.  Not an easy space to stand in.
      • thinking about Nancy’s statement, “technology is designed for group but experienced by the individual” .. pondering .. she’s given voice to my wiki experience.
      • Challenge of navigating and negotiating the spaces with broad continuum of experience, knowledge and skills. What a challenge it is even when some are adept with the the tech while others remain timid or right-down resistant.  Not so much critical mass but critical intention.
      • What if tech development were guided by tech steward rather than IT peeps?  (great question, huge wish, especially in state gov where all things are Sharepoint. Wrestling with how to make Sharepoint do what the groups//community need it to do, sigh.
      • Tools in “tech stone age” … not so sure, maybe bronze age … at least I don’t have to know and be able to write code to engage my colleagues – I remember when it was that way, when one had to be 90% geek not 10%.  Now, 10% geek will do in most cases.
      • Difference in perspective between “what can we make/do with these [tools, platform]” versus what do we need the [tool, platform] to do for us?  One feels resigned, adaptive to what exists while the other creative challenge for what could be.

      Seeding? What we didn’t  talk about is something I’m facing and wrestling with still.  Seeding (where there is little or no real community) and supporting engagement in our withering attempt to engage community sectors online.  The Provider Network is doing a bit better but not by much.  Thinking about why — conditions, capacity, attitudes, and what we are learning mixed with disappointment.

      Measurement? (still) I’ve also been thinking a lot about measurement, and what I think of as the core about what CoPs are about about.  Seems the main thing about online community is 1) relationships and engagement... wondering how to measure, has anyone actually done it … so went looking for tools and resources — found two instruments that measure relationships that I’m thinking of tinkering with and using with my group in KS (want to tinker?).  Grunig-Hon here and in Katie’s book, Measuring Public Relationships and attached paper and instrument from Vern Larsen’s work on collaboration (research shows quality of collaboration has a direct impact on the quality of the outcomes).

      Not sure this is what were looking for or whether appropriate for the blog – but if it fits, point me that away :-) I’d be happy to share and learn with everyone.

      :-) LaDonna

      Upcoming face-to-face meetings

      There are two upcoming face-to-face meetings that involve CPsquare members and friends in one way or another. You are invited to join in!

      The first is an event about the barriers and enablers to communities of practice in higher education that takes place at Birmingham University (UK) on May 10th. See this leaflet. The cost of attending the event is minimal (£20). The announcement describe the conversation:

      Communities of practice are increasingly seen as effective ways for organisations to address the knowledge challenges they face. The focus of this day will be on how communities of practice can enable research collaboration and promote interdisciplinary work, can inform pedagogy and enhance the student learning experience and can facilitate the development of teaching networks in Higher Education.

      Speakers include Etienne Wenger, Karen Guldberg, Paul Edwards, Malcolm Ryan, Jenny Mackness, Tarsem Singh Cooner, Paul Lowe, and Helen Walmsley.

      The second is a one day informal conversation in Aalborg on May 2, immediately before the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning Conference on May 3 and 4, 2010.  Our day together will be:

      • Mostly an informal, get-acquainted conversation: an extended round of introductions to find out what people are working on. I’m hoping that Barb McDonald, Beverly Trayner, Brenda Kaulback, Etienne Wenger, Floor Basten, Jeffrey Keefer, John David Smith, Joost Robben, Patricia Arnold, Susanne Nyrop, and Thomas Mathiasen will be there.  You are invited to join us.
      • We are having discussions in our member’s space to decide on a few topics for more extended conversation.  (If you are a member of CPsquare you can just log-in to participate.)
      • Drop us a line using the CPsquare contact form (option #4) if you would like to participate and are not a member of CPsquare.
      • This kind of conversation beforehand can enrich the experience of the formal conference that follows although participation in our Sunday gathering is independent of the Networked Learning Conference.
      • We will pass the hat for snacks.

      News: Field Trip, tweeting @30K’, workshop, etc.

      CPsquare quarterly Field Trip

      A CPsquare Field trip to Wikisourcing Sustainable Enterprises on Monday, February 22, 2010 12:00 PST 20:00 GMT. Free. No RSVP. Just show up.

      EW Tweets at 30K’!

      Etienne Tweets at 30,000 feet. Nuff said.

      The CPsquare Foundations Workshop redesign

      The Foundations workshop has been running regularly since 1998. (We’re getting close to the 30th time!) Now Etienne, Bronwyn and I are giving it another facelift. It will only be 6 weeks long. It’s more concentrated. It’s scheduled to start March 22. Register now.

      CPsquare gathering in Aalborg, Denmark on May 2nd 2010

      Immediately before the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (Aalborg, Denmark) 3rd & 4th May 2010, some of us will be gathering for a day of conversation. Want to join us?

      “My practice” series at CPsquare

      In a way, CPsquare has been a very outward-looking community, focused on the communities that members lead or support. We haven’t paid as much attention to the work that members themselves do. During the last several months we’ve had sessons with Sue Wolff, Jack Merklein, and Joitske Hulsebosch talking about their work in their settings. Quite fascinating stuff. (There is a kind of avalanche of announcements that “a community of practice has formed” out there on the Interent. I’ve captured a few of them in this mind-boggling list with the “copexample” tag.)

      Current books

      • Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning With New Media,
        by: Mizuko Ito, et al.
        (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009) 419. pp Http:// You can download the whole book in a PDF. An in-depth look at genres of participation – reporting on a huge ethnographic project.
      • Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers The business models for independent communities of practice has been a theme in CPsquare’s Shadow the Leader series this year.
      • Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John D. Smith, Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities (Portland, OR: CPsquare, 2009). It was published on August 15, 2009 but our first group “plug” was last week, in a session with the SIKM Community. A really enjoyable experience. Maybe we should do more such.

      Quarterly Community Field trip to WSE

      Join CPsquare, SCOPE and friends in our next quarterly field trip, when we will visit the Wikisourcing Sustainable Enterprises community:

      People gathered around

      Our field trip starts here:

      Jenny Ambrozek will be our host.  In her invitation she said:

      As creators we think Wikisourcing Sustainable Enterprises community is essential, based on hearing the need from practitioners at The Sustainable Enterpise Fieldbook launch events and exchanges in the Sustainable Enterprise Network.

      However, currently WSE is a grand vision, a serious aspiration and the seed of a network (as captured in the network map, slide 27, of this “Collective Intelligence” presentation). Our learning so far is about:

      • The practical realities of crowdsourcing, and the challenge of getting contributions and interest.
      • Network thinking and approaches to convene, and interconnect, the stakeholder networks we’ve identified as essential to WSE’s success.
      • sustainability. (For more context see slides from ODNetwork NY presentation.

      The CPsquare / SCOPE field trips use an informal community comparison framework

      C4P model as we’ve adapted it:

      • Content: What explicit knowledge objects such as documents or video clips are created or shared in this community?
      • Connections: What interpersonal contacts between community members (e.g., that facilitate relationship-building between community members) can you observe?
      • Conversation: what face-to-face or online conversations are going on?
      • Context: what context gives meaning to the content, connections and conversations in this community?
      • Purpose: what is the reason for which the members come together in this community?

      More about the C4P (see description and references)

      Our visit page is on the CPsquare Wiki:

      Situating learning

      It’s ironic that Alexander Osterwalder uses a “business model for a cow” as a playful exercise to get people thinking about the issues of how to design business models. We have been using Osterwalder’s business model canvas to think through the issues around  a learning community of expatriate Dutch dairy farmers. One of the issues that Josien Kapma is working on, and that we’re trying to understand with her in our “Shadow the Leader” series, is how a learning community can be sustainable financially.  It can take significant resources to support a community of practice, so financial and other resources can be a limiting factor in pursuing a learning agenda.

      Using Osterwalder’s scheme has not led directly to a financial plan.  Instead, it has brought up a lot of issues about the social context of learning. During our monthly conversations we have come to see that these three issues interact with learning and financial sustainability in interesting ways:

      • Increasing mobility (farmers born in The Netherlands, farming anywhere in the world) requires people to re-invent practices like farming and learning.
      • The internet breaks old models for supporting knowledge brokering (it strips control that once was tied to physical books or agricultural extension services, for example).
      • New environmental sustainability goals are quite ambitious, and make farming even more knowledge-intensive than it was before).

      It has also been interesting to see some of the analogies between a community startup and its Silicon Valley cousin.