Connect, Contribute, Develop

Tony Burgess of Company Command fame made a very striking contribution on the Comprac listserve the other day, which I’m quoting here with his permission. As I read it, he’s talking at least in part about Wenger’s idea of personal trajectories of deepening involvement with a community of practice (moving from periphery to active participation). He suggests there are three main dimensions of involvement in a community:

”(1) Connection: As a result of this experience I am becoming connected to like-hearted leaders who I value. This is about relationship.

(2) Contribution: I am able to give back and make a difference—to contribute my unique experience and talent to something greater than self. I am making a positive difference for people and a collective that I value.

(3) Personal Development: As a result of this experience, I am personally developing and becoming more effective as a leader and a person than I would otherwise be. I am being exposed to people and experiences that change me. I’m learning.”

I’ve been doing some work recently on the value exchanges that take place in and around communities, and also on evaluating the different kinds of value that are created – for the host organisation, for the community as a whole, and for the people who become involved and participate in them. It seems to me that this last “value proposition” for want of a better phrase is the foundation for all the rest, and Tony’s summary of the progression from connecting to contributing to developing is a wonderfully clear way of expressing how the relationship builds.

This is not to say that it’s a mechanical step by step progression: first you connect, then you contribute, then you develop – for example, it’s hard to connect in a community without contributing, and personal development can motivate participation in a community from the start. But in terms of principal focus it’s spot on. When you first join, it’s hard to contribute in context, in a way that is tuned to the current conversations the community is having. You need to figure out who’s who, something of the history and context, and establish some preliminary working relationships before you can contribute with any great consistency and depth. And contribution at consistency and depth is hard to sustain if you’re not getting feedback and learning and development from the experience.

For more on this, read Tony’s paper (you will need to join the comprac group, but hey, that’s not going to do you any harm).


1 Comment so far

Luke Naismith

Perfect timing thanks Patrick - I am in the process of preparing some value propositions for some communities we are developing so this is excellent!

Posted on September 15, 2008 at 12:15 PM | Comment permalink

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