Tuesday 20 April 2010

Nested communities

I blogged yesterday about the four main types of community; the communities of practice, the communities of purpose, the communities of interest, and the social communities.

It is worth pointing out that in many large communities, these various types can coexist within one community, in a sort of nested arrangement, as shown on the diagram. This works as follows.

At the core of the community may be a core team, who are jointly accountable for the running of the community. This is part of their job, and they are rewarded for doing it. They roles are now officially part of what they do, and they cannot come and go as they please - they have a level of commitment. In some cases, they may timewrite against these community roles. This core team collectively agreee deliverables with the company (often through a community sponsor), and in return may receive a community budget. This collective agreement means that the core team is a community of purpose.

The core team service a community of practitioners. These are a true community of practice. Their roles are informal, and their involvement in the community is entirely at their own discretion. They do not timewrite to community activity - their incentive to take part is due to their passion for teh topic and to the access to knowledge proivided by the community. They are potentially both users and providers of knowledge.

There also may be a group of those who do not practice in the topic, but are interested observers of the community activity. They do not use the knowledge to improive their own practice, but they want to know what's going on. These people form a community of interest around the topic.

And where is the purely social community? It's not on this picture at all, as this is a community focused around a topic, rather than a social community of friends. Over time, friednships and social ties will develop, but the primary purpose of this nested community is business rather than social.

Now of course not every business community will be nested like this.

There are the purely vonluntary communities of practice, with no funding, no sponsor, no deliverables and no offical roles. These have no community of purpose at the core.

There are the communities which are purely communities of purpose - budget-holding collaborative work groups set up to solve particular problems.

There are the communities which are "practitioners only" - closed to the "interested observers"

However we need to recognise that community types can nest.

So how does this work in terms of technology? we will find that in a nested community, different layers make use of different tools.

The core Community of Purpose may have their own collaborative workspace, for setting up meetings of the core, or for administration. Often they will throw this open for comment to the wider community, but the main users of this workspace will be the core. The core may use the community blog for community announcements.

The community of practice will use the discussion forum, will build the wiki, will take part in knowledge sharing activities.

The community of interest will be more passive observers, and will read rather than contribute.

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