We have had to cancel the Fall 2012 Foundations Workshop because of enrollment. We’ll announce the schedule for 2013 at the beginning of the year.
John for the team.
Foundations of Communities of Practice Workshop
We have had to cancel the Fall 2012 Foundations Workshop because of enrollment. We’ll announce the schedule for 2013 at the beginning of the year.
John for the team.
Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner recently released a very useful summary and contribution to the practice of community leadership with “Leadership groups; distributed leadership in social learning“. In that first chapter they promise to publish others over time, so well worth subscribing if you haven’t already.
Last week we had a session in CPsquare’s R&D Series by this year’s recipient of CPsquare’s Pepperdine Award. Jonathan Silk conducted a lively online discussion and presented his work on his action research project in a webinar. His project is titled: Building an On-Line Community of Practice with Digital Storytelling (Leadercast).
Jenny Mackness has offered a reflection and summary about the power of the videos that Silk is studying in MILSPACE (familiar to many of us as Company Command). She notes:
“The stories can be highly emotive and elicit deeply reflective thinking. This requires careful, sensitive and experienced management by the interviewer. Trust and positive relationships are essential to the story collection process and it is understood that the videos are ‘owned’ by the interviewees. No videos are published without the consent of the interviewee, although they are carefully screened for any potential security issues.”
There was another interesting angle that came up during the webinar. Silk is part of a community of community leaders that has been working together since well before the publication of
Dixon, Allen, Burgess, Kilner, and Schweitzer, CompanyCommand: Unleashing the Power of the Army Profession in 2005. (In fact Allen and Burgess were working on these issues in their 2001 book Taking the Guidon: Exceptional Leadership at the Company Level.
And Silk not only shared his action research project, but he walked the talk by inviting partners and mentors to our webinar, including Pete Kilner and Tony Burgess. Pete Kilner, didn’t say much that day because he was home with a cold. He’d presented his dissertation in CPsquare’s R&D series back in 2007 on “The effects of socially relevant representations in content on members’ identities of participation and willingness to contribute in distributed communities of practice.” During the webinar, Tony Burgess contributed a lot of history and insight (he also presented his dissertation “Understanding the core group in a distributed community of practice” in 2007). Because Silk, Burgess and several others were in the same room during the webinar it was interesting to listen to some social interactions at West Point: how they used titles like “Major” or “Dean” or “Mr.” and the way they so scrupulously acknowledged each other’s leadership and contributions. It felt like we got a glimpse into Silk’s research project and into his community and its finely honed norms.
After the question of how to support communities of practice and social learning interactions, one of the most difficult but persistent questions that comes up in CPsquare run along the following lines:
They are persistent and come up in many different forms. Recently Susan Stewart raised them in a “My Practice” session. Marc Coenders has been working on it during during this year’s Shadow the Leader series as he reinvents himself and an offering called Campus-X.
A group of us are organizing an intensive conversation on the subject during the first week of November. Anybody who has ever been a member of CPsquare or participated in a CPsquare event is invited to a free two-day immersion in this important question.
We are offering the Foundations Workshop again beginning October 22. If you know of someone who’d be interested, please let them know that it’s time to register!
There’s a steady amount of experimentation that we do in the Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop. Although it’s a workshop, not a community, both share the challenges that come up around experiments, like keeping track of what worked, culling the best stuff, putting the results in a place where you can find them. This post reports on some of our experiments — with community memory practices.
The expansive and emergent conversations that make up our workshop are (almost) as messy as a community, and because we wanted to demonstrate in the workshop how communities deal with these real-life issues, we’ve been experimenting with the idea of “weekly reifications,” showing a range of memory practices that take more or less effort and show different dimensions of “being together” in a community of practice. Here are some that we have tried recently (the “community logic” is on the left, a snapshot is in the middle, and a note about how it is relevant in the workshop is on the right):
|A participant or member directory or roster is something that most community platforms provide. Drawing a ring around a group of people is an easy but meaningful way of suggesting group identity: it can show who was present, who involved in a project, conversation, or event.||When we put roster information in a “take-away” form, it’s available to participants after the workshop is over. Easy to produce and an important resource.|
|Looking at a group as if it were a community of practice and wondering what would be helpful to do is a key community development step. Apart from the insights that a social network analysis can generate, there’s something about getting a group to look at itself in a different mirror (or in several alternative mirrors and from different angles).||I use the group dynamics in the workshop to illustrate how social structure matters. These graphs take me a bit more effort and skill to produce, but it can generate powerful insights.|
|A wordle summary is a well-known way of showing what words were important in a conversation. It tends to mark the close of a conversation, so best not to post the wordle in the midst of a conversation you hope will continue.||Etienne produces a thematic summary of one of the conversations he has facilitated. The wordle is cheap and easy but nowhere near as interesting as what Etienne writes up.|
|Often it’s the sub-group conversations that end up having a big impact on a community: making these side-conversations visible and bringing their insights to wider view can be partly automatic and partly deliberate.||When participants go off in weeks 4 and 5 to work on projects, Bronwyn makes them visible as groups and highlights the results of their efforts.|
|Ward Cunningham says, “unfinished is good news for communities.” Scrutinizing a polished text can be a surprisingly refreshing community activity.||Having a discussion of about one of his relatively polished essays with Etienne through the comments feature in Google Docs is a refreshing alternative to our standard discussion platform.|
|As Beverly Trayner-Wenger said years ago about a CPsquare conversation, “The tangents tend to lead back to the main point.” A community’s URL cast-offs, when organized, can be of high value.||People who participate in the Foundations Workshop bring a tremendous amount of prior knowledge. Just collecting and organizing the references that come up in conversation is a remarkable resource.|
Stay tuned. We make up or borrow new reifications and some fall away depending on participant interest and on the amount of time we have to play with. Each workshop is different.
Here’s a collection of news and tidbits from CPsquare: the Foundations workshop schedule, social artistry, and hacking versus stacking.
Our long-running (almost venerable but still fresh) Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop is running two times this year. It starts next on April 9th and later in the year starting on October 22. If you or someone you know is interested in a deeper understanding of communities of practice, please register or get in touch now!
In a way, social artistry has been at the very core of our conversations, conferences, and workshops at CPsquare for the past 10 years. Recently CPsquare members Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner posted an essay on their new website that Etienne wrote about “social artists” several years ago, reflecting on work that they had done together on an EU initiative.
“One of the key ingredients [in successful social learning spaces] is the energy and skills of those who take leadership in making it all happen. I call the people who excel at doing this “social artists.”
“Social artists are leaders, but the kind of leadership they exercise is subtle. It does not engender or depend on followership. Rather it invites participation. It is a mixture of understanding what makes learning socially engaging and living the process yourself. It is not a formula; it is creative, improvised, intelligently adaptive, and socially attuned.
“By helping people come together and discover their own learning citizenship, social artists build up the learning capability of social systems…. Still social artists tend to be invisible because we do not have good frameworks and language to appreciate their contributions…. Their role is of utmost importance. We need to learn to recognize, support, and celebrate their work. Their contribution is especially critical today when humankind faces unprecedented challenges that will place increasing demands on our ability to learn together.”
Wenger, E. (2009) Social learning capability: four essays on innovation and learning in social systems. Social Innovation, Sociedade e Trabalho. Booklets 12 — separate supplement, MTSS/GEP & EQUAL Portugal, Lisbon.
But around the edges at CPsquare, the question of how we fit in as social artists is persistent, both existentially and economically. For example, CPsquare member Marc Coenders, whom we are shadowing this year is considering where it is that learning is happening (or could happen) around him in The Netherlands. He’s asking how to organize social learning strategies within organizational, competitive, and economic constraints? How bridge across organizations, projects, and cohorts so that the focus is not so much on individuals, but more on organizational learning cycles? In a way, “where is the learning” is exactly the question that Lave and Wenger were posing in 1991 except that now we know a lot more about the artistry of intervention and leadership than we did back then. (Among other places where you can explore these questions, you might consider one or more of the three BEtreats scheduled this summer.)
Mimi Ito, one of the anthropologists who was at the Institute for Research on Learning back in the 1990′s when Lave and Wenger was published, is still working on “before social artistry” questions: “Where is it that kids learn?” and “What is it that they are learning when using digital media?” She’s one of the leaders of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, which puts on an interesting annual conference. She does some very nice social artistry when she reflects as a community leader on the conversations at the conference.
The hack v stack distinction that she uses to think about work in the educational research and innovation community (posed by Paul Edelman) gets at the question of where different kinds of learning happens or is needed in the “many fangled” world of education. (Ito’s reflections make me think that the DML Conference is a place where CPsquare members and friends could learn a lot.)
In a way, CPsquare member Sean Murphy is putting his social artistry to work developing a series of communities that hack the entrepreneurial culture in ten different locations in California, Illinois, and Minnesota. Specifically, he helps entrepreneurs learn their way to success in regular Bootstrapper’s Breakfasts. He’s purposely navigating around the venture capital ecosystem because of the way that it is focused on sorting people and firms, presuming that not everyone can win, necessarily creating losers. Among other things the venture capital system ends up rewarding people who learn to chase and spend other people’s money, sometimes at the expense of learning to grow more self-reliant firms. Sound familiar?
|Despite our enthusiasm for and belief in social artistry, it’s important to remember that so much learning “just happens.” I just finished reading a wonderful book about a giant learning machine called Chungking Mansions. In Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong (Chicago, IL: Univ of Chicago Press, 2011) Gordon Mathews describes Chunking mansions, as:
“the haunt of South Asian merchants, African entrepreneurs, Indian temporary workers, African and South Asian asylum seekers, and penurious travelers from across the globe. It is, as I discuss in the pages that follow, a ramshackle building in Hong Kong’s tourist district that is a hub of “low-end globalization;’ tightly linked to the markets of Kolkata (Calcutta), Lagos, and Dar es Salaam, among other cities across the globe.”
Mathews describes an impressive learning feat that goes on every day, sustained over many years: people learn to navigate the building, to do business with each other and get along remarkably well; to sort clothes and phones and a myriad of other goods manufactured in China and exported around the world; to navigate a very complex legal environment; and to evolve new trans-national and trans-cultural identities. And not many people in Chungking Mansions are likely to call themselves social artists, but as they work to survive and make money in Hong Kong (same old stacking), they are changing the world and themselves (hacking on a big scale). The book is highly recommended.
Ning, Ning, can you hear me now?
Meanwhile, back at home, in CPsquare we are fashioning a lens (a mirror?) to look at social artistry by comparing how different communities that rely on the Ning platform are configured and how they are faring in different circumstances. It’s clear that many of the questions we were raising in Digital Habitats are still worth working on. (We’re coming out with an e-book edition this month, by the way.) Drop us a line or leave a comment on the CPsquare website if you’re interested.
The Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop has always been international and it always feels a bit miraculous when everybody lands “on the same page.” Since one of the participants suggested that we not just meet online but actually talk, we’ve been having teleconferences as part of our learning and being together. (I think we started having teleconferences around 2001.)
Our experience in the workshop confirms the notion that the technologies we use bring us together (somewhat more, often to great effect) and yet always exclude some people and always seem to require more planning. If we want to meet during waking hours, some people are just left out of an international gathering like our workshop. And if we meet at this time of the year, we have crazy daylight saving shifts to contend with.
Consider the fact that our workshop always has people from Australia, the US, and Europe and stretches across 6 weeks. We use US time as the constant and our Monday get-togethers for the workshop that starts on October 24 bounce around as follows:
|Sydney*:||7:00 AM||7:00 AM||8:00 AM||8:00 AM||8:00 AM||8:00 AM|
|New York:||4:00 PM||4:00 PM||4:00 PM||4:00 PM||4:00 PM||4:00 PM|
|Europe:||10:00 PM||9:00 PM||9:00 PM||9:00 PM||9:00 PM||9:00 PM|
* Next day in Sydney
This particular miracle would simply would not happen reliably without the World Clock!
We’re running the Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop again two times this year, starting next on April 4 and (tentatively) on September 12. Since its predecessor first ran in 1998, the workshop has been under continuous redesign as participants from all over the world pitch in and make it better, as new tools become available, and as we formulate new strategies to make it more useful and impactful. For example, recently Bronwyn Stuckey, Etienne Wenger, and I have been thinking about how participation and reification show up in communities and in our workshop. We are developing summaries of each week’s activities as a visible marker and transition to the next. We want to use summaries that work in a workshop setting that are also useful in an ordinary community of practice.
For example, Social Network Graphs are sometimes used to think about the social structure of communities, especially when they are forming. So at the end of week one we use a graph showing how people interact in the workshop’s “Opening Circle.” It represents what people have been doing and provides an opportunity for reflection going forward. At the end of week six, as Practice Lab projects are wrapping up, we’re holding a Share Fair, both because it’s useful for workshop participants to present what they have learned and because Share Fairs are a common and recommended practice. I would like to know what the most useful (and common) reifications that you are seeing in practice! We would appreciate a comment on the CPsquare blog or drop us a line!
The regular activities that we are holding at CPsquare include “Shadow the Leader” (in it’s 5th year), the Research and dissertation series (which has been running more or less since the beginning), a quarterly “field trip” where we visit a community together, and now the monthly “My Practice” series, where people talk about their work and the communities they work with (ranging from HR and medicine, to beekeeping, to software development, to education and on and on). We usually interrupt these regular events with larger scale conferences. Next Fall we are seeking to organize a series of conversations with pioneers — people who were around the Institute for Research on Learning when the community of practice idea was hatched. In June, we are holding a conference on religious communities as communities of practice.
In American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) bring up many of the issues that are likely to come up in our conference next June. For example, the graph at right (on page 30) suggests how”a regular place of worship” is such a common experience for Americans compared to other forms of association (and hence learning). Although they come at the topic from a sociologist’s perspective (outside looking in), they provide some fascinating vignettes and insights about how religious practice has evolved in America.
One of the issues that has come up repeatedly over the years in CPsquare is how the surrounding social and economic context (and even “business model”) shapes a community of practice. Putnam and Campbell offer an interesting perspective on that issue in the following two quotes:
However, the congregation as an all-purpose association with members who choose it, belong to it, and make contributions to it is actually a very Protestant model of religious organization. This form and function of the typical American congregation – of whatever religious tradition – is thus a consequence of America’s Protestant heritage. The United States may not be a Protestant nation in law, but its Protestant legacy shapes the contours of the religious landscape. (p 30)
Rather than a congregation with a fixed membership, mosques in Muslim societies were – and continue to be – convenient places into which one steps in order to pray, depending on where one is in the course of the day. . . . But in the United States, mosques inevitably come to resemble churches. (p 31)
From an entirely different angle, a story from a great little book by Richard H. Axelrod, Emily M. Axelrod, Julie Beedon, and Robert W. Jacobs titled You Don’t Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004) about the very productive coexistence of an Episcopal Church and a Jewish Temple in Ann Arbor, Michigan, fits right in here. I’m quoting at length (from page 16 on) so you’ll buy the book (notice the different kinds of involvement they mention), because it suggests how learning at many different levels of scale intersect in religious communities, and because it provokes questions about the kind of involvement we seek to encourage in any community we might work with:
It’s important to always stay clear about what you are trying to accomplish since different goals call for different kinds of involvement. Here’s a story that illustrates the point.
A Jewish temple and an Episcopal church share a building in Ann Arbor, Michigan — the longest-standing affiliation of its type in America. Some years ago, the temple and church were in conflict, which threatened the harmony of the relationship. The membership of the temple was growing, but that of the church was not. Members of the temple wanted a larger social hall for celebrating life-cycle events in their community weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and so on. The church wanted to invest its excess funds in charitable works. Initially the boards of each organization met together to see if they could iron out their differences.
After these sessions, the temple leaders thought that the project was clear: the work they faced was to decide whether or not to build an expanded social hall. They planned to hold a few meetings with the board’s audit committee to determine the financial feasibility of such an effort (Know-How Involvement). They talked about what it would take to encourage members of the congregation to contribute to a fund raising campaign (a creative variation of Arms and Legs Involvement you might call “Checkbook and Wallet Involvement”). But as they explored the situation further, they uncovered a more fundamental question: “What kind of temple do we want to be ?”
Suddenly, the entire project changed. The temple leadership knew they needed to engage the entire congregation in such a significant question. In conversations about their collective future (Care and commitment Involvement). A vision for the temple community gradually emerged. At the same time, they also got clearer about the nature of their relationship with their church partners. This new clarity made it relatively easy to resolve the building issues. They proceeded to build a beautiful new worship area, social hall, and educational classrooms that have benefited both congregations — with strong backing from across the congregations’ members.
Today, the space shared by the temple and the church is the best utilized building in Ann Arbor. Schools, community groups, fitness classes, and lifetime learning programs are all housed there for below-market fees. This met the church’s need for charitable works. These various groups have also provided a substantial source of income, defraying the costs borne by the temple and church for the construction project. The lesson: as you get clearer about what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll get clearer about the kinds of involvement you need.
Just think how much learning is happening in that story! To me it suggests that if people are involved in something important, the learning takes care of itself. Are involvement and learning goals aligned for your community?
We’re launching the Foundations of Communities of Practice Workshop starting Monday September 13. Registration is open through Monday morning.
The conversations, projects, ideas and experiences we share in the workshop always reflect the field as it evolves. So the workshop is always new in many ways. Workshop participants and mentors always bring new issues and new settings that are fascinating. As one mentor (who is from New York) said in a meeting with the workshop organizers today, “It’s so great that the participant roster is so international! Not dominated by Americans.”
Of course the workshop design is constantly evolving, too. A couple of our current innovations / experiments are:
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 2.0 – a 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:
CPsquare quarterly Field Trip
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.)
Although we try to make the Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop as much not like school as we can, it always seems like some participants refer to it as “a class” and indeed it does have to have some elements of a class. Like a beginning and an end.
We do try to embed real community-development features into both the beginning and the end of the workshop. At the beginning of the workshop we invest a good bit of time exposing what a great resource the workshop participants are for our collective learning. At the end we talk about how the inquiry could continue individually and collectively through participation in CPsquare events.
But we’ve found that when people arrive too late for the beginning of the workshop, their experience really is compromised. So it’s OK for people to start one or two days late, but if they miss that deadline, they have to wait for the beginning of the next workshop. That compromised experience is evidence for our claim that the Foundations Workshop is as much about an experience of participation as it is a conversation about the nature of participation and it’s impact on learning.
Unfortunately today I discovered that a setting on our administrative server was set so that it looked like registration was closed three days before the beginning of the workshop, not two days afterward. It’s now fixed and registration is open for another four days.