It’s interesting to think about how knowledge networks develop. My understanding is that people or organizations with a common interest come together over a shared purpose. If the sole purpose of the network is to share knowledge, there needs to be a demand and supply of knowledge. Participants need to be interested in each other’s experiences and lessons to offer. To be really valuable, the knowledge needs to be real, personable and something others can identify with. Anyone who uses Facebook understands these concepts.
I am helping to establish a regional network of learning around a shared topic of interest and am finding it more difficult than I thought. Possible hurdles include:
- Network members have changed due to politics and organizational changes – thus there are no faces in the network
- The topic of interest is not a priority for participating institutions
- Participation may be more of a political issue than a true desire to participate
- Peoples’ time is greatly limited
- The wrong people have been identified
- People are used to reinventing the wheel and thus don’t prioritize learning from other’s experiences.
So what can I do? As I work to improve this network I think the first step is to put faces to all participating organizations in the network. Contacts needs to be made and efforts to engage each contact in how the network can fulfill their needs should be a priority. Another step is to reconfigure the membership so that there is more interest in the actual participants and the knowledge they have to share. Once people start taking action on the subject matter and are in need of information, the network might self actualize. I will try these ideas before resorting to the obvious action of reducing expectations about participation and commitment of members.
If anyone has experience to share on how they have managed to engage a ‘disengaged’ network, please share with me – thanks!