Community of Practice Struggles, Part 1

Tree Looking UpI have spent the past 2 hours catching up with colleagues and (perhaps) soon to be colleagues in the CP2 Community, where there have just been 2 Research and Dissertation Fests this week (one I could attend, and one I could not), as well as on Twitter.

Between reading and chatting on Twitter about Nancy White’s amazing recipe, seeing how other people I know were doing the same, discussing ways of using social media for community building (some direct Tweets I received and replied to about this topic), reading how Lilia Efimova had an idea and how she is considering blogging about this still unformed topic as she knows the benefits (and then she finally did blog about these thoughts), not to mention my chats with Jacquie McDonald, chatting about a research idea around Communities of Practice with Etienne Wenger (who did a discussion and co-facilitated the CP2 Foundations course I recently completed), and getting other ideas from colleagues via Direct Tweets, I realize I have a lot of interests and like reaching out to this distributed community.I also like their reaching out to me.

With all this, I wonder why I struggle with consciously enlarging my own community of practice. I tend, for example, not to look for people on Twitter and Facebook, but rather process all this if “friended” first. Perhaps I do not want to be pushy? rejected? or even seem needy? Ironic, as more and more of my work is in the area of communities of practice; perhaps more of my life should be there, too?

2 thoughts on “Community of Practice Struggles, Part 1

  1. Hey Jeffrey, it was fun “dancing” with you on the networks last night. I’m re reading your post this morning and realized I am not quite sure I understand your question because I think I experience this online thing in a different way.

    For me, my communities (CoPs and otherwise) generally have distinct boundaries and more attention to the community aspect – attention to relationship, who is present, who is missing and thus the term ‘friending’ actually has some significance. My NETWORKS on the other hand, are made up of people with whom I have found some connection — most often topical or content related — but who I often don’t really know. So I don’t need to spend too much time and psychic energe processing the relationship part – if it comes, it comes. if not, it is an emphemeral connection.

    Both are very useful. Both are different. There is no way I could fully attend to the personal relationship aspects with everyone I interact with on the network. It would blow the top off my wee head. Some of them ARE friends in the more traditional manner. But many are simply connections.

    In that “freedom” I don’t have to spend more of that precious psychic time worrying about “pushy” or “rejected.” I save that for my communities. 😉

    Does that make any sense at all?

    1. Nancy, thank you for your most thoughtful comment.

      Yes, this makes a lot of sense, and thank you for sharing — your definitions are nearly quotable in themselves, especially as they so clearly demonstrate a distinction between them. I suppose my challenge in this area is that I do not have such a strong distinction between them.

      I do not have the strong sense of community as you described it, and from a network perspective, often see it more as an extended community. Continuing this thinking, I do not have those strong and distinct boundaries that you listed. In many ways, my experience is often more focused around specific initiatives and experiences, and thus the community tends to expand and retract along the way. As a number of the people I know tend to be involved in more than one at a time, it feels more like an extended and distributed community of practice.

      I also find that when I am busy with work and academic commitments, I tend to withdraw from my communities, as there is only so much time and I have been known to over commit.

      I find this very useful, as I have not consciously processed all this in a similar manner before. This gives me food for thought today, when all I thought I would get is food for food’s sake!

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