“Living systems contain their own solutions. When they are suffering in any way - from divisive relationships, from lack of information, from declining performance - the solution is always to bring the system together so that it can learn more about itself from itself.
As a community manager or social designer, it's vital to remember that there is a social identity within an group that is both individual and collective.
Community managers should let this process happen naturally to allow for the most meaningful communication to occur between peers and give members time to discover their role in the community.
Social Design in Community Spaces
In their book, Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge (Harvard Business Press, 2009), Wenger, McDermott and Snyder outline the key strategies required to build a functioning, vibrant and healthy online community:
Member Roles in Online Communities/Social Networks
Each group member wil bring a unique set of experiences, sources of information and level of participation in the community. For example, there will be some members who naturally become the group organizers because of their ability to keep track of details. Those who have artistic abilities will find their personal identity as they offer creative input.
As members interact, they develop relationships, shared values and interests.
Because of this distinctiveness members within a group must have an opportunity to discover what their contribution will be and which role they will play by interacting socially with one another. Allowing a community to create a sense of identity is a critical.
Finally, it's important to remember that a community built around a shared practice is a living entity that is always evolving. In other words, a well-designed social space should provide users with the tools and leave it to them to construct their own meaning and level of interaction within the community.
Image Credit: D'Arcy Norman, via Flickr