Promoting and assessing the value of communities

Recently, a wonderfull paper on the value of communities of practice and networks was published. Etienne Wenger, Beverly Trayner and Maarten de Laat provide a conceptual framework that “should make it possible to assess value creation” in communities that are used for social learning activities.

In my experience, there is an emerging call from management and leadership to show results from community and social learning efforts. This framework can provide some guidance in how to show the value of community for the organization and it also gives insight on how to promote the use/ value of a community. In my opinion this paper is a valuable and welcome addition to the literature.

In short, the authors have used the evaluation model of Kirkpatrick as underlying to their framework. Instead of levels, the authors have used 5 “cycles” in their framework:

1. Immediate value: activities and interactions
> What happened and what was my eperience of it?

2. Potential value: Knowledge capital
> The potential of (new) formed knowledge capital in terms of eg. new connections (social capital), new gained resources.

3. Applied value: Changes in practice
> What difference did the participation in a community made to the employees practice. Did they changed the way they do their work?

4. Realized value: Performance improvement
> Did the changes in practice lead to actual improvement of performance?

5. Reframing value: Redefining success
> Did social learning contribute to a redefinition of strategies, goals or values? This can be applied on individual, collective and organizational levels.

In my opinion, the framework could be used for online communities in organizations as well. Would be very interesting to learn from others who have actually applied this model in their organization. I wonder if it would be possible to provide ROI as well.

Maarten, Beverly and Etienne, thanks for your work on this!

Other resources that are helpfull in assessing the value of communities:

Weinbergs ROI model

Social media ROI Pyramid

Productivity in a networked era: Not your father’s ROI

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