For the last several years, CitizenLab has been working to build a community. Over the course of those years, we had the privilege of convening hundreds of clients at meetings and feedback rounds to gather their input on our platform and around the idea of online community engagement more broadly. That need to centralize and share relevant knowledge, to advise and inspire, only continued to grow. In our informal online community, we involved clients in weighing in on our product development, handed them resources to expand their work, and enabled them to interact with each other. Today, with over 300 clients worldwide, the needs of our expanded community have shifted, and we are taking our work to support this ever-growing network a step further by launching our Community of Practice (CoP).
Community of Practice for digital community engagement
So, what is a Community of Practice? While the term was introduced in 1999, it’s still very much relevant today:
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are organized groups of people who have a common interest in a specific technical or business domain. They collaborate regularly to share information, improve their skills, and actively work on advancing the general knowledge of the domain. (Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press, 1999)
The three key concepts in this definition apply across CitizenLab’s community: groups of people (i.e. CitizenLab clients, team, and partners), common interest (better online community engagement, digital participation, and decision-making), regular collaboration (meetings, community platform, emails, etc.). So what is the biggest difference between a community as we know it and a Community of Practice? They focus on how we do something together. CitizenLab’s Community of Practice will first and foremost be action-oriented, to enable clients with the tools they need. We’ll be heavily focusing on the ‘practice’ part of the term.
We are making sure the CitizenLab community is a supportive, enabling community for our clients. At a time when so many tools and networks are competing for our already-limited time, our aim is to build a community that is always centered around our common interest: online community engagement, with a focus on the practical elements of learning how to do things better.
The benefits of a Community of Practice
For our clients and partners, there are different reasons why being part of our community of practice is valuable. They include:
- Being part of a relevant network
Knowing that you are not the only one facing a certain challenge and having colleagues to share best practices or lessons learned with can improve your work and inspire you to try new things.
- Getting inspired and trained
Speaking of inspiration, being part of an online community for community engagement is one thing, but the community needs to be practical and action-oriented. The community needs to show you how to get things done and inspire you with practical and ready-to-use examples and training material.
- Staying connected with peers and with experts
Wherever you are in your process, or regardless of how proficient you feel when it comes to online community engagement, you know you can speak openly to the community about what you are working on.
- Growing through collaborating
Our community is not something static, but is constantly evolving. We’ll be interacting directly and with each other, and there’s always room for input, questions, and moments to do things together. So, what’s in it for CitizenLab as a company? Being able to build this community with our 300+ clients has clear values. It allows us to build closer relationships, get immediate feedback to improve our platform and our service offering, and share our expertise from ‘one-to-many’ instead of ‘one-to-one’, which is more efficient but even more importantly can have a larger impact. We will make sure to build and nurture the community across all of our teams, from our Engagement Experts and Support teams, to our Product, Development, and Marketing team members.
A multifaceted community for changing community engagement needs
CitizenLab works in different markets, in multiple languages, with different client segments, cultures, goals, and projects. Therefore, ensuring we maintain an online community with real purpose and added value for our clients and partners in our network is front of mind.
We’ll do this by diversifying our means and tools and building a live Community of Practice, meaning we will always enable easy interaction and peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing. Each tool has a different purpose – to inspire, connect, learn, co-create, educate, train, or get feedback.
Get involved in CitizenLab’s Community of Practice to:
- Get inspired, by relevant examples
- Learn, by staying grounded in practical methods
- Be on top of things, recognizing that you only have so much time in the day
- Feel connected to the group, but on your time and terms
Our Community of Practice is a live environment that we will constantly improve through interaction and feedback – that’s an integral characteristic of this network. So let’s meet in the CitizenLab community! Be it on the Community Platform, by watching and commenting on a training video, while browsing through an e-guide, or sharing your thoughts in a client-session. Consider tapping into the community by talking to peers about your challenges or taking a quiz in the CitizenLab Academy today. The more we exchange and interact, the more we all are advancing our knowledge on online community engagement and eventually our engagement projects will be higher quality, more impactful, and our democracies will benefit as a collective.