A Case Study on Click Connect and Coalesce for NGOs: Exploring the Intersection Between Online Networks, CoPs, and Events

-Bellanet is a Canadian NGO working with the development community to increase collaboration by providing advice and assistance on making more effective use of ICTs

-They started with an email list – KM for Dev (Knowledge Management for International Development Organisations)

-As at Nov 202 that list had 233 members and over 1000 posted messages

-Interchanges focus upon the understanding of KM and its role in development as well as the cultural context most of the members experience working across the globe

-Those who ask questions on the list are frequently answered

-Now vibrant communities which have sprung out of KM workshops organised by Bellanet in Washington DC and Brighton in 2000, Chennai and Maputo in 2001 and The Hague in 2002.  These small, highly interactive workshops have not only provided a venue foe knowledge sharing and collaborative work but the nurturing of relationships between individuals and their organisations

-The walls of this CoP are quite permeable…as members from the larger network enter and exit via either workshop participation or the deeper discussions that emerge on the list

-Face to face gatherings are essential to the community

-Steinlin noted, however, as the membership of the list grew and the participating groups at the events varied, that he sensed some dilution of the original community. Steinlin suggests that meeting at least every 18 months and limiting the size of the community is key for a CoP.

-In 2002, Bellanet added an Internet Portal for the community to allow greater sharing of resources. It is still primarily populated by staff members and a few frequent contributors; it does not yet appear to be a core element of either the network or the CoP. Yet, it exists and may see more uptake over time. In addition, Bellanet has been a working experiment on open source portal development: an issue of practical interest to the group.

-Again, a large network (the international development community) feeds into a more defined network (community of interest) that is primarily supported by the KM for Dev email list. Within the network, a rich connected community exists and supports the members in their work to apply KM to development. The community is punctuated and glued more tightly together through the intermittent face-to-face meetings and catalytic moments on the email list. In turn, that CoP is a strong contributing element to the network. The flow goes in both directions, keeping both stronger than they would be on their own.

Hildreth, P., & Kimble, C. (2004). Knowledge Networks: Innovation Through Communities of Practice. USA: Idea Group Publishing.

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About Paul Size

Currently studying a Masters in Learning and Development at the University of Southern Queensland.
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