I’m consolidating several previous bodies of work into a new iteration of a Community Diagnostic as part of my broader work around building engaged communities: It will provide insight into, and visualisation of, a single Learning Community, as well as a comparative view across multiple Communities. This is early stage #WorkingOutLoud, it’s experimental, so i am prepared for parts of it to be wrong.
It is intended to help an Organisation measure, and recognise, it’s progress towards unlocking the power of Social Communities. It will explicitly help identify development and support needs, as well as barriers or obstacles to effectiveness and growth.
The aim is not to score communities on effectiveness or output, but rather to understand their individual culture, approach, and mechanisms of effectiveness.
The Community Diagnostic is based predominantly upon individual, and collective, narratives, so it is essentially a qualitative, but calibrated, measure of effect. Where possible, i’m also including more quantitative measures, although with a strong caveat that those things that can be quantified in social conversations are typically interaction frequency and visible connection, both of which may inform our view, but are not robust measures of engagement or effect.
One way to view the Diagnostic is that it visualises the Dominant Narrative of a specific community: because it draws upon both individual, and group, narratives, it provides both divergent, and consensual, definitions and results, meaning it forces the points of difference. In other words, five different Communities are forced into providing five different single narratives, which will each be different (as they are consensually moderated: people agree the narrative).
In this sense, you may find it easiest to view these as the political intent of a community.
In the analysis, i will reconcile this with Organisational intent, to provide practical, and pragmatic, development steps, which are focussed on how the Organisation can carve out space, resource, and opportunity, to help these communities to thrive.
Mechanisms of Effect
We use this term to describe the ways that a Community is effective: it includes both the formal aspects that influence this (things that are owned by, or under the control of, the Organisation), as well as the social factors (the interpersonal, tribal, and cultural factors, which are beyond Organisational control).
Note that even fully formal communities also have social components, they may just be invisible from the outside, or unintended in consequence: for example, weaker voices may still be silenced within formal teams if they contradict the established Dominant Narrative.
Formal Mechanisms of Community (those owned by, or under the direct control of, the Organisation) include things such as:
- A charter, or formal remit, establishing the community, and hence giving it space to operate.
- Formally appointed leadership roles.
- A dedicated technology that is owned or controlled by the Organisation.
- Formally recognised membership, or formal control of membership.
- Any formal renumeration or reward for membership or contribution, including game or points based reward.
- Formal rules, including safeguarding.
- Any formal ability to moderate the conversation, including the ability to silence any individual voice, or exclude any individual member.
- Provision of, or access to, any formally owned resources (space, technology, support etc)
- Any funding, including for e.g. social functions
Social Mechanisms of Community (those that are interpersonal, tribal, or cultural) include things such as:
- A pact, or shared social statement, of intent.
- Socially fluid membership, characterised by a democratised ability to invite new people to join.
- Socially moderated membership, where membership is controlled, but by an internal, social structure e.g. a committee.
- Conversations that take place on predominantly social technology (that which is not owned by an Organisation), or take place on formal technology, but in illicitly claimed spaces.
- Exclusion through social consensus, or individual sanction, especially by those with greater social authority within the group.
- Social recognition of membership, including, for example, access to opportunity, resource, or influence, based upon membership.
- Social rules, which may either be written (but moderated by the community), or implicit (held in the dominant culture), hence unwritten, and possibly contextual or fluid.
- Social mechanisms of moderation, which may include conflict based approaches e.g. open dissent or challenge.
- Socially owned resources, including those to which the community is granted access purely dependent upon membership, even if not formally owned by the community.
Areas of Investigation
In the initial Diagnostic effort, i am exploring ten core areas:
- Purpose – view of shared purpose, and how this reconciles with the Organisational view
- Permission – how the Community understands the space it has to operate within
- Connection – the types, and breadth, of connection (correlated to the formal structures of the Organisation)
- Technology – the technologies that enable or constrain the community
- Tempo – the pace and synchronicity of interaction.
- Effectiveness – the ways in which the Community believes itself to be effective.
- Mechanisms – the self reported mechanisms of effect
- Membership – factors affecting membership, including rituals of joining and belonging
- Activity – the ways that the activity of the Community can be characterised
- Rules – the rules of the Community.