Build it and they may come….

February 10, 2011

Although the movie Field of Dreams made the line “Build it and they will come..” famous, in reality we all know it’s a bit more complicated than that.  When we’re building a community, it’s more like build it and then work out ways for people to: 1) Know about it; 2) Join and then 3) Participate.  A number of good posts recently have addressed this topic including :  The Real Active Value of Community Management by Debra Askanase and Confusing Crowds with Communities by Ian Thorpe.

When Amy Sample Ward and I set about “building” a community of practice for those practitioners involved in international outreach we knew a few things to be true:  1) There are many practitioners and organizations involved in international outreach; and 2) There are a lack of accessible resources and spaces to share information.  So we created a wiki we called “Global Scale”.

Over the past few months the Global Scale project has had a slow start. Amy and I brainstormed and identified a few things we thought might be getting in the way of adoption and engagement.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Naming anything can be a difficult task: you can over state or under sell, you can rely on jargon or be too vague. In this case, “global scale” meant something to us because we had context and our own definition. But it isn’t something, so we’re hearing from the current community members, that makes sense to them or connects as something relevant to their work. The name doesn’t match the purpose: it isn’t about working on global initiatives per se, but is instead about ramping up efforts and scaling impact to effect, at least eventually, a greater world. So, we’ll be exploring other names that are more descriptive of what this community of practice actually is. Maybe “Scaled Efforts” or “Scaling Impact”  or “International Outreach”?

Where do I fit in?

When one comes to a new site or community it is important to be able to know fairly quickly “where do I fit in all this”. We know many, many people that have ideas, experiences, and information to share on this topic, but when visiting the wiki, some told us they weren’t sure how their work was relevant. Again, just because we have an understanding of the space, doesn’t mean it’s clear to others. We want to ensure that the entire community understands both what they can share and what they can learn from the wiki. So we’ve added some ‘prompt questions’ which hopefully will help participation.  You can also read more from Amy’s perspective here.

Another challenge of building a useful community of practice: To have a space and resources that are available when you need them, we  have to make time when we feel like we don’t…If we’ve sparked your interest please visit the wiki and leave us any thoughts you might have…or if you know of others who might have an interest, please share this information with them.  Thanks!