Supporting teams, communities, networks

Conversations at today's conference on membership confirmed what a big stretch membership covers, from providing infomation, advice, a voice, networking opportunities, through to the development of collaborative projects between staff and members. Each activity will require different communications, marketing and engagement approaches.

Fortunately Anecdote have published an excellent paper on Building a collaborative workspace  written by Shawn Callahan, Mark Shenck and Nancy White. It isn't aimed at membership organisations, but is very relevant if you see membership in some instances as a collaboration going beyond an offer and acceptance of services . The authors first give us some useful definitions:

In team collaboration, the members of the group are known, there are clear task interdependencies, expected reciprocity, and explicit time-lines and goals.

In community collaboration, there is a shared domain or area of interest, but the goal is more often focused on learning rather than on task. People share and build knowledge rather than complete projects.

Network collaboration steps beyond the relationship-centric nature of team and community collaboration. It is collaboration that starts with individual action and self-interest, which then accrues to the network as individuals contribute or seek something from the network.

There is a checklist to establish whether you have a collaboration culture appropriate in each of these situations,  a listing of success factors for teams, communities and networks, and discussion of the role of leadership. I suggest taking a look at the rest of their blog too.

Also very relevant, I believe, is a piece by Steve Dale on Communities of Practice, where he identifies what a good facilitator should do to meet different needs for members helping each other, developing and disseminating best practice, supporting innovation, stewarding knowledge.

We'll have more here over the next few days from the conference, but meanwhile one of the issues that resonated with me was the increasing capacity for members to network directly with each other, rather than through the centre, because of what's possible on the Internet. I believe that organisations would be wise to support this activity as an additional benefit they offer, on these lines: "of course you can connect with others on the Net without us, but we'll make it easier for you to find interesting people, we'll offer additional communication tools, and the opportunity to meet".

If organisations do go down that route, they'll need to look at the lessons from facilitation and collaboration specialists.  Sophia Parker told us how the RSA is developing RSA Networks on these lines, and she will post something here in the next day or two. It's proving quite challenging, but RSA are sharing their project evaluation as they go, as Sophia reported here earlier.