A self-organising community

Anecdote.com is proving an excellent source of stories about communities right now.

A recent post about fostering relationships to support early community development highlighted several important factors we’ve included in CommunityBuilder, our framework for launching communities.

The latest piece by Krista Schmeling recounts a story about the organic development of an on-line community and their need to meet regularly to reaffirm relationships – like the European members of our Management Trainees community who met recently in Berlin.

Unlike many of the communities we facilitate, there was no one pushing them to do it, no one organising the trip for them and no one paying for the food and accomodation. The community members simply decided it would be fun to meet up and get to know each other a bit better.

A History of A Successful Community
Established last autumn, this community has developed rapidly. Not, I hasten to add, because of any intervention from the KM team. It has been driven purely by the enthusiasm of the members themselves.

There has been a community for Management Trainees since around 2000. The original community centred on a Lotus Notes discussion database set up by a Management Trainee named Helen from Southampton in the UK . It was quite rough and ready as there was little budget available, but it was very vibrant and quickly becamse one of the most successful discussion databases in the group.

As Interact, the group’s intranet, began to catch on during the early part of the decade, Management Trainees asked whether we would be able to create a whizzy new bespoke web-based community for them. The Notes team was able to furnish this request with a standalone tool for which the MTs chose the name “Padare” (meaning “meeting place”).

It was well-designed and built and crucially, closed. By which I mean it had a password and to be granted access you had to ask a custodian. Unfortunately, the custodians – all MTs themselves – regularly moved on, custodianship wasn’t always passed on and people rarely received an answer to their requests… which brought them, inevitably, to me.

Removing Technological Barriers
We’ve been planning an update our free, open community system for months (perhaps even years) and regularly put off sorting out the problem until “after the update” (which still hasn’t happened!) at which time we would “engage with the stakeholders” and “begin the process of migration”.

By last autumn, I was tired of telling people I couldn’t help them, so I created a new community in about five minutes and let them know where it was. My involvement has been pretty minimal since – answering questions as they crop up and helping out with the occasional technical issue. The community meanwhile goes from strength to strength through the commitment of its members.

I suspect if I asked them why this was important, they’d look at me as if I was mad. The opportunities for learning from people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds are immense while belonging to a group of peers provides a huge amount of support for a group of people who are going through similar experiences. If that’s true, why is it only Management Trainees who demonstrate this level of enthusiasm?

If these people are the future of the group, the group would do well to hang on to them.