Ah, so easy to say we’ll do! How can we though, really, in a way that is healthy and helpful for a Community of Practice? What ways are there to keep the energy and good feelings in the relationships you already have, while looking for new connections and trying to let the wider world know about all this good stuff your Community is coming up with?
The good news is, that what you do at one level tends to have a knock on effect and strengthen relationships elsewhere. So for example, if your Community members are tweeters and you use Twitter to stay in touch in between meeting up, new connections who are interested will be attracted to your conversation and want to join in. You’re also using an open platform to broadcast what your Community is up to, and letting the world know you are doing something. (@emmasasaru’s Perinatal Mental Health Network is a perfect example of this).
Or from a different perspective, say you create a newsletter about your Community of Practice and you send it out through your organisations’ communication channels, so your colleagues get to know about this CoP stuff which keeps appearing in your diary, and you namecheck your CoP friends crediting their hard work, say thank you to them. Warm and fuzzy feelings abound.
Here are some of my top tips for ways to stay in touch virtually (suggestions – other communications channels are available), and what use they are to you. A secondary point about all of these below methods – most can be measured and all can be recorded. If you are looking for ways to analyse your CoP or capture its outputs then the below can do this for you. I love analytics (did I really type that?) and am happy to help you if you’re stuck with this side of digital life.
The Co-Creation Network website
Of course, I would say this. It has a forum and document store for you to use and will shortly have an events calendar so you can plot in your meetings (face to face or virtual) and keep track of these too. This is a good place to use as a repository for your learning and gather your knowledge from other sources for discussion, or to prepare it for wider dissemination.
I can access this website’s analytics and can give you stats like how often your group is used in a particular month, visits to an uploaded document, that kind of thing. Please ask if you need this type of info.
This is an open platform (meaning, anyone on the internet can view your tweets). It’s a great and immediate way to stay in touch (especially for things which pop in to your head that you want to share straight away), gather information, promote what you have been up to. You can #hashtag your tweets to make them more visible to a wider audience who might also be looking for info on a similar theme to you. There is a handy tool called Storify which you can use to pull your hashtagged tweets together (it does much more than this, but this is one of its popular functions).
Twitter Analytics can tell you what your best performing tweets are, how many people are seeing them, if your tweets have had interactions. There are plenty of other free tools out there that will give you Twitter intelligence, too.
Much like the private spaces on the Co-Creation Network website, Facebook groups can be closed so that membership is approved first by an administrator, should you so wish. Over one billion people have Facebook accounts, but unlike Twitter the platform is closed unless you choose to make the connection with someone else. It is intended to be a social network where you connect with family and friends, and so may not feel like the right place for a Community discussion around health and social care.
However – given how prolific it is and how easy Facebook is to use, if this is the right platform for your CoP members? Go for it! As an administrator of a Facebook group you have access to great statistics about your group’s demographic, frequency of use and the like, too.
Teleconferencing and Videoconferencing
If you’re having a virtual meeting and want to share back the conversation with CoP members who couldn’t make it, both of these types of conferencing can be recorded! I can help you set this up if you aren’t able to access either of these facilities. If you want to have a bash at hosting your own video conference, there is a group chat function available with Skype or Google Hangouts. With Hangouts you can record the conversation straight to Youtube.
If you personally have something to say, this is the way to say it! Blogging or vlogging is a way to express your opinion.WordPress (which is what this website is built with), is a free blog you can set up yourself – it can be as simple or as complicated as you need the site to be. Another well-used and recognised free blog service is Blogger.
Vlogs (video blogs) bring the subject matter to life and it can be an easier way to explain something as body language will form part of the communication too, and you can edit in slides or images to make your point. If you think vlogging is a good way to document your CoP members’ journeys, then I would recommend setting up a free Youtube channel to keep the videos in one place and use the analytics that Youtube provides to measure.
I love Mailchimp! This is a free e-newsletter service that I use to send out the Co-Creation Network Newsletter. It has templates you can use to build the design (so you don’t need to know graphic design to make a pretty newsletter), it’s easy to use with clear language, great analytics, and a comprehensive help blog to guide you through anything you’re stuck with.
E-Newsletters are perfect for summarising what you’ve been up to, signposting to interesting links, keeping informed those who are interested in what you do but perhaps aren’t in a position to contribute to your Community. The Mailchimp archive (see the CCN Newsletter link above), will keep your newsletters in one place for you.
Image via Creative Commons