Category Archives: Online

Fifth year of Shadow the Leader: Franklin Cook

This year CPsquare’s Shadow the Leader series will shadow Franklin Cook, who is working to establish a community of practice on suicide bereavement in the United States. Here is more information about him: Some of the big questions that may come  up this year are:

  • Is this more of a network or a community of practice? Does that question matter?
  • How do institutional role and mission affect the participation of individuals?
  • What kinds of resources does a community like this require?

Our first session will be on Thursday September 23.  The Shadow the Leader series has been going on for four years.

  • In four years we’ve explored questions of leadership, legitimacy, platforms and how they work together, multi-membership, community peripheries, and business models.
  • The leaders we’ve shadowed have ranged from people who had never heard of CPsquare or communities of practice before to people who’ve been very involved in our community over a long period of time.
  • The basic form has been fairly constant. We always start with: “How is your community?” and take it from there.
  • We continue meeting every month whether the group that shows up on the conference call is large or small.

Ground rules for these conversations are:

  • Inquiry: We avoid volunteering advice. The main point is to see the situation through the eyes of a practitioner.
  • Open participation: Any member of CPsquare can join us. Although the conversation evolves and a lot of context accumulates, the conversations are such that you can get a lot out of any one of the sessions without having participated in any of the previous ones.
  • We design this so that multiple levels of participation are possible. Members can just scan the chat room notes, or listen to the audio recordings, or “sit in” on the calls, or be one of the active contributors to any one conversation or to the whole series.

This series is rewarding because it:

  • Explores what works on the ground in a specific situation (reflecting on why things work, as well) rather than a theoretical “best” practice aimed at a theoretical or “typical” setting
  • Focuses on “the doing it”: the rewards, techniques, obstacles, confusions, and outcomes as they unfold in time. Instead of the plan or the recollection after the fact, we try to look at community leadership and development “in the moment.”
  • Looks at how all the elements fit together: personal, political, technical, organizational.
  • Offers an example of the coexistence of the cutting and the trailing edges

SEEDING 2.0 launching this week

We are about to launch the SEEDING 2.0 conference. We have rich and varied cases to look at together:

8/20: The Community Seeding 2.0 Conference overview and framework

8/20: Kathleen Anderson on a “traditional” case

8/23: Caren Levine & Lisa Colton: Social Media Bootcamp

8/24: June Holley, Nancy White, and John Smith: a Network Weaving Community

8/25: Bronwyn Stuckey and John Smith: Tech stewardship workshop

8/26: LaDonna Coy: Subtstance abuse prevention communities in Oklahoma and Kansas

8/27: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach: Experience and research with teachers communities

8/31: Josien Kapma: training trajectory for GUUS/LNV/vrouwen van n.

To help us handle the richness, we have these provocative propositions to consider:

  • Forums and email lists unconsciously shaped our thinking about communities
  • Communities need “a place” to identify with
  • A community’s topic can be known in advance, otherwise why cultivate?
  • Membership in a community should be identified in advance
  • It’s best to build a platform so they will come
  • Practices for “Being Together” can be taught or changed after the other elements of a community are set
  • Forming a community requires a certain amount of privacy, don’t do it in public

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!”

Community Seeding 2.0: Seeding communities with social media training

Getting a community of practice going is a topic of abiding interest, debate, and learning in CPsquare. In the past, the technology side would include starting an email list, setting up a gated forum on a website, calling a teleconference or writing a community charter together. Web 2.0 technologies offer many more choices than we ever had before, so we see a number of communities seeded by teaching a specific group of people to use social media together. As they figure out the different tools and how those tools work with each other, people get to know each other, conversations get going and a community begins to form.

Gathering the different experiences from CPsquare and beyond, in a conference format, we will address several questions during the week of August 23, 2010 such as:

  • What are the elements and the results of this strategy?
  • Which social media tools are taught, how and in what order?
  • What does the developmental process look like?
  • What is predictable and what is surprising?
  • In what contexts does this strategy work?

This conference is in the early planning stages, but June Holley, Joitske Hulebosch, Josien Kapma, Caren Levine, John SmithLaDonna Coy, and Nancy White are all planning to present.  There’s still room for others, so join us if you have something to offer or just want to tag along!  If our discussions won’t fit in one week, we’ll go longer.

(Photo by

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

      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.

      Guiding the E-Researcher

      Guiding the E-Research book coverAre you involved in conducting online interviews for your community research? This 2-week seminar at SCoPE, facilitated by Janet Salmons, will be of interest to you. Here is an excerpt from the description:

      We are accustomed to live social interaction on the Internet. Text or chat have become a part of everyday culture. We use video calls to stay in touch with distant friends and family members, attend online meetings or webinars; we jump into Second Life for fun or learning. We may know how to use synchronous tools, but do we know how to use them for scholarly research?

      While social conversation and research interviews share some characteristics, the purpose, protocol, and context are quite different. This SCoPE seminar will explore key e-research steps needed for educators, graduate students, and community leaders to use synchronous tools for scholarly interviews. In addition to asynchronous discussions, two synchronous events in week two will demonstrate the use of Elluminate and Vidyo for online interviews.

      The seminar will draw on Janet’s new book on the subject, Online Interviews in Real Time.

      SCoPE seminars are monthly topics facilitated by volunteers in the community. They are free and open to the public and there is no registration required. To contribute to discussions and to customize your visits you will need to create an account (quick process!) Please pass along this flyer to your colleagues or point them to the seminar forum at SCoPE.

      Hope to see you there!