Knowledge Communities

What do KM and IM professionals require in terms of communities and networks? We work in such a wide range of situations – some with huge departments in large organisations, while others may work alone.  There are associations that cover some of what we do – like CILIP, the Chartered Institution of Library and Information Professionals, but where you move into knowledge and wider information management, we cannot directly identify an organisation that covers our particular field.  This then, was the interesting starting point for the last NetIKX meeting, Connecting Knowledge Communities, held on September 23rd 2015.

As you would expect for professionals whose work includes promoting sharing and communities of practice (COPs), we do have plenty of professional groups and between them, we can call on support for most of our needs. This meeting identified what is out there, invited some key people to talk about their communities, and enabled participants to engage in discussion around the issues.

One way of classifying what is available is as follows:

  1. We had two speakers from the more intellectual and academic end of the spectrum. Henley Business School and Knowledge and Information Network (KIN) gave polished presentations that demonstrated their value in providing research, expertise and potential for career advancement. These are two important focus groups for knowledge professionals but there are many other options for gaining qualifications, for example, at a range of UK universities. There are also offshoot training programmes from recruitment agencies who work in this specialism, for example TFPL.
  1. Social networks for professional development and social support were represented by NetIKX itself and ISKO UK. There are several other groups like this, particularly for those based in or near London. LIKE was not represented at the meeting, but their formula is similar but with stronger emphasis on social togetherness over a meal and drink. Gurteen knowledge cafés and the Gurteen website provides a focus for discussion and sharing good practice, as do several other websites such as KNOKO and Steve Dale’s personal website.  A less social network, but one where discussions flourish, is KIDDM, the virtual group that brings together people working in the field, happy to communicate and support each other across the internet.
  1. There are also much more focused networks for specific jobs or interest groups. This was represented at our meeting by the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS), but others that fill similar spaces include CILIP itself, Special Library Association (SLA), British Computer Society (BCS) and several others.

Among these many groups, with their offshoot discussion boards, LinkedIn groups and Twitter feeds, there must be something for everyone – but how well does this plenty meet our career and business requirements?

We looked at three questions.

  1. What do we need personally?

Clearly there is no professional body that only caters for Knowledge Managers and specialists but the variety of communities and networks available mean that we should all be able to find some elements that we need, and indeed many people are members of several groups in a network of networks! There is face to face support, advice, expertise and career development assistance available, albeit not in one ‘easy to identify’ professional body.

2. What are the needs of our organisations?

If you need case studies and advice on good practice to inform how we do what we do, many of these groups offer good practice guides, including examples of appropriate audits, forms and ‘how to’ documents to ensure we can deliver without constantly reinventing wheels. There is also a wealth of information on undertaking the difficult task of persuading our companies to recognise what they need and making the necessary business cases to sell it to reluctant Finance Heads. No knowledge professional is left all alone with just ‘Knowledge Management for Dummies’ to get them through!

And finally, do these communities and networks deliver effectively?

We discussed whether there is more scope for us to get our plentiful supply of support groups to work more closely together and to respond more efficiently to deliver the best for us all. Could we do more to strengthen and rationalise what we offer, in a way that produces better organised and more accessible value to the profession? At the end of the meeting, we promised to keep the debate alive. If we continue to explore the options, we can help to bring better support to new staff, staff away from the metropolis and indeed all of us, so that we get even more from our available communities and networks.

Until then, NetIKX will continue to supply a useful support group of like-minded professionals in a safe space where we meet up to share experiences, as well listening to excellent speakers such as the ones on hand at this meeting. As usual we completed the meeting with drinks and chat.

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