First Birthday Series: The importance of co-creating resources in a community of practice

For our “First Birthday Series” of blog posts, we are taking some time to reflect on CSCCE’s community of practice, which turned one year old on 21 October 2020. Our first post summarised the community “by the numbers,” then we delved a little deeper into our programming offerings.

In this post, jointly authored by Communications Director, Katie Pratt and Center Director, Lou Woodley, we take stock of our resource collection, which now comprises eight pages on our website and includes 28 free-to-download guidebooks, worksheets, and community profiles in our Zenodo community repository

The growing CSCCE resource collection. Image credit: CSCCE

Why we (co-) create

One of the main functions of a community of practice is to share and evolve knowledge together in a particular domain and the CSCCE CoP is no different: we want to support those building communities in STEM. In terms of how we support the sharing of knowledge,  it can help to think of knowledge as coming in two broad forms – implicit and explicit. Implicit knowledge covers the kind of things that aren’t usually captured in instructions or other documentation – such as how to configure a particular tool for the best results in a specific context, or how to navigate a challenging conversation. We create space for sharing implicit knowledge through various programming including working out loud together and requests for help in Slack. Explicit knowledge on the other hand is shared in various artifacts – guidebooks, tipsheets, presentations and more. And we support surfacing and sharing the deep experience within our community by creating opportunities to co-create those artifacts together.

One big benefit of co-creating in this way is that we diversify the knowledge base of our resources, making them more expansive, inclusive, and interesting. And, we create authorship opportunities for our members, helping them raise their professional profile and forge new connections with their co-authors. 

The importance of curation – the CSCCE resource pages 

Once knowledge artefacts have been created, it’s vital that they’re also discoverable by members of the community – and beyond – and that they remain discoverable long after they’ve been created. We put a big emphasis on the importance of good curation – indeed our Communications Director is also our Content Archivist – and one key place that’s visible is in the resource pages on our website. These pages pull together outputs such as blog posts, guidebook, videos from community calls, tipsheets and more into topical pages that are easy to browse.

Currently on the CSCCE website you’ll find eight resource pages: 

Together, this collection of curated content makes up the largest collection of scientific community management resources available online, and it’s growing all the time (see below). Indeed, we’ve four more pages in the works for release over the next six months.

Resources to support online communities

Of course, sharing knowledge can also occur in a manner that’s responsive to an urgent demand and with the COVID-19 pandemic has come a global shift to working and gathering online, and a need for more resources to support that. As a result, our community quickly became a hub for conversations and resource sharing to help members host engaging online events. Throughout the Spring, we convened a series of virtual writing sprints to consolidate this knowledge, and co-created a guide to using virtual events to facilitate community building that laid out 12 “recipes” or event formats. 

Since we host our community of practice on Slack, we created a guide to creating an engaging community on Slack with an accompanying appendix, and shared some of our learnings from running this community. We also released some of our onboarding materials under a CC-BY license so that anyone can take them and adapt them for their own communities, including: 

Frameworks, worksheets, and more

Our work to create and disseminate a shared vocabulary for scientific community managers to describe their work and share knowledge resulted in the creation of CSCCE’s community participation model. The model details five modes of participation by community members, and how each model contributes to the success of a community. Our accompanying guidebook contains the answers to a series of FAQs, which address relevant issues such as power distributions, managing funder expectations, and designing programming that offers different levels of member participation. 

Our code of conduct working group recently released CSCCE’s new community participation guidelines. The foundation for these guidelines was developing, articulating, and refining a set of core values to underpin all CSCCE activities, gatherings, and online spaces. The exercise or creating core values takes time and careful facilitation, but our worksheet can help scaffold the process for anyone looking to do this in their own organization. 

Before the shift to virtual, we also published resources to help community managers host successful in-person events. The CEPF 2019 C2A2LM project team created a guidebook to building community at scientific events, which features chapters on event design, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), and evaluation and metrics. And some of their fellow CEFP 2019 alums created a suite of tipsheets (which can all be found on this resource page) to aid event organizers with important DEIA considerations. 

Research outcomes

At CSCCE we also conduct research into STEM communities and the role of the scientific community manager. Our community profiles project set out to understand the structure, management, and funding of communities by surveying community managers and creating 13 infographic-style overviews. We are currently conducting a meta-analysis of these data, but the profiles themselves are all now available to view and download. 

This year we also published a report from the Advocacy Ninjas, a CEFP 2017 project team who investigated champions programs in STEM. Champions programs, also known as ambassador programs, advocacy programs, fellowships, and more, empower emergent leadership within a community and create a network of community members who “go the extra mile” to make a community successful. The Ninjas’ report outlines their findings from a survey of more than 30 community managers in STEM. 

Join the next phase!

We’re intending to continue co-creating resources with community members and invite you to join us in those activities. In our November community call (18 November, 7pm UTC / 2pm EST) we’ll be hosting a discussion surrounding the need for resources and supportive activities related to hosting online events, building online communities, and the kinds of virtual tools available to get these things done. Join us to let us know what your needs are, and/or sign up to co-create something with us!

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