A community site does not build a community

There is a common fallacy, that creating a SharePoint site creates a community of practice. In reality it seldom does.

Photo © Oxymoron (cc-by-sa/2.0)

I posted a couple of days ago about why some Communities of Practice die young.

One common cause of early Community die-back is when a well-meaning person creates a SharePoint site, and assumes a Community of Practice will spring up to use it.

We ran a KM Assessment recently for an organisation. At one point we were talking with one of their KM team, who proudly announced “we have lots of communities of practice”. When we pressed her a little more to find out what she meant by this term, we found that for her, a Community of Practice was a SharePoint site with a list of contributors, a blog, and a wiki. Then when we went online to look at these “communities”, the vast majority were entirely empty. Quite silent. No activity at all. They had died an early death, or never even got off the ground.

It takes far more than creating a SharePoint site to build a Community.

The key is in the word Community.

Community is a feeling – it is a feeling of having something in common. It is a feeling of trust and a feeling of identification. Providing a set of community tools and expecting community behaviours to emerge is a variant of the “Build it and they will come” argument, which is pretty well discredited outside the movies.

They key is to build the community first, and let them build the site, or to find an existing but nascent and struggling community and let them build the site. The site serves a community, it does not create it.

That’s why we always recommend a lot of groundwork to make sure a community (or potential community) exists, identify a core team of people who can represent the community, and then a face-to-face community launch to build the sense of community, the trust and the loyalty, before we ask them whether they need a community site to help them to help each other.

Communities build sites, site don’t build communities.


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Shared by: Nick Milton