KMRC Conference Blog: Sbarcea

March 31, 2009

Kim.pngI always enjoy talking with Kim (and her husband), intelligent understanding, pragmatic and intellectual. However she is going to talk about Communities of Practice which is not one of my favourite subjects. Her plan is two cases studies, one a seven year uninterrupted example and another is for political activists. All the slides by the way are of cats, which is a great comfort for those of us who are ruled by cats.

Her first case is government regulation and enforcement, mainly legal people trained to be adversarial and argumentative so not naturally inclined to be collaborative. Interestingly her story starts with issues of leadership and changing attitudes of leadership and the need to be tenacious in keeping knowledge projects going. Similar organisational change to that talked about by Nick into three networks based on competence rather than function. Removed knowledge sharing from performance review as it was a dismal failure due to gaming. Good point here.

Key point coming up here, they had CoPs, but then created knowledge networks to complement them. Some were there to learn, some were CoPP (Community of purposeful practice) linked to specific outcomes. Key learning ALL of her CoPs are face to face even if a lot if video conferencing. Some pod casts, CoP TV and some blogs but not as successful as she would have hoped. Used actors to change her CoP sponsors to get them to communicate better. These are all examples of using novelty to make people thing differently, and its the difference that counts rather than the practice (my comment)

They have a dedicated role to community historian focused on insight rather than recording, nice idea that and they kept executives out of communities until they were well established. The overall story here is one of lots of energy and leadership making things work, keeping informal and formal learning separate as programmes, recognising the social aspects of informal learning. Now talking about SNA to choose sponsors and says she is ramping up her capability. I’m less sure of that for reasons I have outlined elsewhere in an article on social atomism (on the web site, no time to hot link now but you will value it more if you find it).

Now onto her second task, training activists in Morocco to create communities after prior training on non-violent protest. Some of these people had been tortured so as they say, serious stuff. She can’t talk much about the details, but her overall point is that creating social interaction increases trust.

Now I find all of this believable and I am also very sure that Kim can replicate the experience with sponsorship and top cover. What I am not sure about is the degree to which this can be scaled. Methods based on outstanding people doing outstanding people generally don’t. There is a piece of work here to look at all of the published CoP cases and seeing how many failed to sustain themselves beyond the first year. Some always will, but I think the theory is flawed, but good people (like Kim) have skills that can come over that. Kim is reinforcing this in her conclusion, listing many personal qualities (all of which she says) needed.

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