Flickr photo credit: Pixel Drip
Flickr photo credit: Pixel Drip

Ive been thinking a lot about engagement lately.

We talk about engaging our community membership. But what exactly do we mean by engagement? What is a community members motivation for participation? What trajectories might this participation take?

Tony Burgess is the co-author of CompanyCommand, a book about peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and online communities. He recently posted reflections based on his personal experiences on the com-prac discussion list about what motivates volunteers in communities to move from peripheral participation to more active engagement and leadership roles.

Tony writes:

The experience is meaningful to me (an active member) along three dimensions:

(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 differenceto 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.

Given this understanding, a follow-up question follows: “What can we as a community of practice do to be a catalyst for the meaningful experience of members?”

Nancy White comments on Tonys post and builds on it she asks, When we are trying to design, support, create conditions for collaboration, how do we best suss out motivation to increase the chance of actual engagement? What are your sussing strategies?

What does collaboration look like in your organization: lay, professional, lay-professional? What keeps your members and staff engaged? How do you use online tools to build and sustain your communities? How do you measure success? How do your members journey at various points from peripheral participation to leadership roles? What keeps them and you motivated and engaged?

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