A CoP for our time…

At a recent meeting of NEXIKX, the network for Information and Knowledge exchange, a brand new initiative was launched. NetIKX will establish a Community of Practice (CoP) that will include people from its two main membership groups; members who attend London seminars and LinkedIn NetIKX members, who include many people who don’t have the option of coming to seminars in person. The discussion at this meeting focused on some of the key issues for CoPs as a vehicle for professional support.

Dion Lindsay, the main speaker, explained that in the past these four items of advice were given about COPS: they should have a clear purpose, they need to be facilitated rather than managed, they must involve face to face meetings and they have to be dynamic, in the moment, motivating – so that people join from enthusiasm rather than coercion.

How relevant is that advice for our new Community of Practice?

Yes, our CoP will have a defined purpose, which is to produce a NetIKX Directory of Resources around the Knowledge and Information theme. Can our group of like-minded people revitalise the NetIKX website, using a Wiki format, modelled perhaps on a ‘Trip Advisor’ style to enable knowledge and information professionals to find resources? There will be an established framework, so that people can join in with clarity about what and how to communicate through the wiki. But beyond that, we hope all project participants will bring their own directions and initiatives, so the framework becomes a supportive guide, rather than a straightjacket.

We are aiming for more than just the tangible website resources as our CoP outcome. There will be opportunities for knowledge sharing, mutual support, writing reviews, networking, learning and skills development not to mention growing friendships, CV enhancements and hopefully even fun! That ambition adds up to NetIKX benefits, professional benefits and personal benefits too. People will be welcome to lurk and learn. We heard at the seminar that research has shown that the greatest value of CoPs is not a lesson-learned database, but the opportunity for learning that is involved in taking part.

Will our CoP need ‘managing’ as well as some simple facilitation? Well, the answer to that remains to be seen. But as we know the quality of NetIKX members already, we fear no trolling or lack of politeness. It hoped that, like one of the examples Dion mentioned, we will simply have to manage success!

We agreed that the necessity of having a physical meeting is becoming irrelevant. New technology has opened the way to wonderful possibilities for communication from anyone, anywhere, once you have appropriate mobile equipment. The great thing is that we can all take part, without waiting for a NetIKX seminar. The vision of people joining in the CoP from their bedrooms was considered – although I personally hope people won’t sit up all night working on our project!

The CoP will be open all hours, so our non-UK members can join in too, despite time zones. And it will need people with all levels of expertise, youth, age, wisdom and energy. Our community will need visionaries who can help shape the way the Directory develops. We will also need collectors, collators and commentators to bring in valuable content. And perhaps some technical-savvy folk will come forward with the skills to help our hard-pressed web master to identify and exploit the technical options. So – will our CoP be dynamic and ‘of the moment’? If it can pull in all the wondrous talent from our hundreds of LinkedIn group members as well as featuring at our regular seminar meetings, we see this as a certainty.

To sum up – this CoP is a dream of producing lively web resources for NetIKX so that our currently fragmented group of disparate members can join together into a happy, productive, sharing community.

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