I got an interesting opportunity to apply the thinking on creating and using communities that I and my colleagues have been developing. Quick recap on previous blogs on the topic; two parallel streams of activity are visible:
1) Social Networks
2) the notion of everyone and everything being available in a connected infinite Mesh spanning companies, countries etc. as opposed to the internal ‘Matrix’ model of a finite number of point to point links.
My argument is that the Mesh is creating Social Networks, and Social Networks are moving into Business use as a tool to help customers, employees, partners to share and work in a new collaborative manner based around ‘interactions’ to find optimal possibilities. These Web 2.0 technologies are people centric, therefore separate and different to current IT systems which are machine centric and based on the ‘transactions’ to create data. BUT we need to find a way of creating different social networks for different purposes and the purpose will both driven membership and the tools/capabilities required by the community.
The opportunity was a requirement by a government department to encourage children to adopt hobbies out of school with the view that this would decrease street crime and hooliganism from bored teenagers hanging round on street corners. The question was how to organise such an initiative and of course the ‘given’ was a traditional model of top down organisation. The alternative approach is based on the universal use of the web accessed through PCs and phones by teenagers today.
Applying the principles of four types of communities, each with its own and different reasons for existing, therefore requiring different and appropriate tools to allow the community members to work together. The top level community is created around ‘shared values’ and in this case the originators of the idea who are clearly motivated by high level social values. However this will need to be driven into the next level down of ‘shared goals’ where several communities may be created, say one of sports, another on music, etc and here the members of each will be working to decide how to create interesting and involving communities for their topic. The difference between the sharing of information and agreement on concepts in shared values area and the building of action plans in the shared goals community highlights the very different nature of each as well as the different tools needed.
The last two communities are easier to understand by going to the bottom of the stack and the community of ‘acquaintances’. This is where you are encouraging as many people as possible to join because its ‘fun’ with interesting stuff so you will introduce all the usual elements of a ‘social’ network to encourage the teenagers to join in with their friends.
Linking this to the values and goals communities is the crucial community of ‘shared interests’ which is where the ‘shared goal’ community creates the framework and content that encourages the involvement of from the open community of ‘acquaintances’. This the community of ‘shared values’ achieves its ‘goals’ through creating the ‘interests’ that will lead to participation from the broad uncommitted community of ‘acquaintances’. Hope this real example makes the point clearer and can help explore this in other industries types, etc.