Reflections from Learning Solutions Day 2: Responding to challenge

The second day of Learning Solutions and i’ve delivered my fourth and final session. Themes: how do we engage communities, how do we respond to challenge, how do we make it safe? I thought i’d capture some ideas around this aspect of community management: how do we deal with challenge, what do we do when the story moves somewhere we don’t like?


We can engage directly: challenge what is said, respond to provocation, we can reply. It’s about understanding what the purpose is of conversation and who owns it. If we take the easy path and try to control the conversation, it will simply migrate elsewhere: sure, we can just moderate out answers we don’t like, but it’s the dissent and our response that really counts. So we should often seen to engage or even invite dissent: after all, if communities are truly ‘sense making‘ we should relish the intellectual challenge and see what answers we can co-create.

We can stand back and let the community moderate itself: leave it, defer to what the community thinks. This can be put within a timeframe: see if the community deals with dissent internally, or if we need to intervene. This can be a more sustainable model: after all, if we try to manage the community too tightly, we will never know if it can regulate itself. In issues of safeguarding or abuse, we may have to intervene faster, but often it’s worth letting the community work it through.

Another options is to approach the individual directly, to say ‘we want to moderate this, but would rather discuss it first‘: see if you can get into a conversation and reposition the disagreement together.

We can reframe conversations: reposition it into a private group to resolve or move it to a different space. Similarly we could take the dissent and turn it into a topic of conversation by itself: remember, the point of social approaches is that the story is co-created with the community: half the wisdom sits elsewhere.

Finally, we can reject and deploy the ultimate sanctions of disengagement, moderation or banning. Sometimes the conversation goes too far off track, and we have to reject it.

So these are not definitive, just reflections out of the conversation today: Ways that we can engage and respond without resorting to formal authority.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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5 Responses to Reflections from Learning Solutions Day 2: Responding to challenge

  1. paulhodgkin says:

    There’s one final option you don’t mention Julian – we ourselves, as the meta-agents of the conversation platform, can be changed by the direction the conversation is taking. We can learn, see new possibilities in what is being said and the language that people are using.

    My guess is you completely agree with this but missed it off your list because in your own mind you had framed this piece as being about manifestly bad directions that conversations can take – bullying, abusive etc. But even here there is sometimes much to be learnt.

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