The Autism Ladder is designed to be a community of practice for parents and carers of people with Autism. A community of practice is formed by "groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly". Developing Autism Ladder as a successful community of practice involves more than just creating a place for interested people to interact though. We need to develop a shared vision of what type of community we want and share the responsibility for nurturing the community to realize that vision.
As a first step, a short survey was conducted to allow community members to rate the importance of the various dimensions of the Autism Ladder community. The survey was based on the model developed by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John D. Smith (2004) and involves ratings of 9 different dimensions as shown in the following figure.
50 responses were received to the survey and when the average score for each dimension is plotted produces the graph shown below.
Whilst the average score is useful, it is also interesting to examine the response patterns for each question as some had a much wider variety of responses.
Involve regular, shared activities for a specific time to achieve a particular goal. This could include meetings that are: Same time Same place (face to face meetings), Same time different place (online meeting, text chat, video conference, skype etc) or Different time and different place (email exchanges within a limited time).
Q2. Open-ended conversations
Ongoing, open-ended conversations including spontaneous discussions and exchange of information in unstructured forums and detailed discussions around particular themes or topics.
Deep focus on particular topics to solve problems or produce useful artifacts such as small group of people working together to produce a guide on a specific topic or development of online training materials.
The creation, sharing and providing access to documents tools and other resources. This content may be the result of projects as described above but may also involve the sharing or organising of existing materials.
Q5. Access to Expertise
Providing focused and timely advice to expertise either within the community or externally such as: Answering questions, fulfilling requests for advice, collaborative just-in-time problem solving & sounding board to validate decisions.
Highly value getting to know other members personally. Interested in networking and building personal relationships and trust.
Q7. Individual Participation
Ability for people to participate in different ways and at different levels including: Accommodate participation ranging from light/occasional through to active and sharing leadership Individuals are free to focus on areas of interest to them helping the individual develop their own learning eg provide mentors, coaches
Q8. Community Cultivation
Prefer to actively grow the community instead of allowing the community to develop organically in an unstructured way. This includes: starting discussions to provoke responses and interaction between other members, marketing the community to their own personal and professional networks & monitoring the "health" of the community and raising concerns
Q9. Serving a Context
An emphasis on serving not just the learning of the members who participate but also improving the knowledge of other peoples or communities. This may be achieved by publishing resources, making connections with other communities or creating resources specifically for non-members.
Whilst the community seemed to have similar view of the importance of most dimensions, several displayed quite a range of opinions. the most significant variations were seen in:
- Projects and
- Community Cultivation
Variations in these areas shouldn't be seen as a problem but rather something we should be aware of and plan to address. For example we may need to provide a variety of channels for members to access the knowledge of the community. Some may prefer the immediacy of ad-hoc Facebook discussions whilst others prefer more structured/formalised channels. Food for thought.
What are you thoughts on the survey results? Do you have any suggestions for how we can address the priorities listed above? Leave your comments below!