Communities, Networks and Groups

A new article by Etienne Wenger, Beverley Trayner and Martin de Laat has just been linked to on Etienne’s Facebook page.

Wenger, E., Trayner, B. & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks : a conceptual framework. Centrum.

This is very timely given the online course about communities of practice in HE that I will be working on with colleagues from Oxford Brookes University tomorrow.

The new publication by Wenger et al. is true to its title. It presents a framework and toolkit for assessing value creation in communities and networks. But perhaps of interest to those who follow discussions about the differences between groups and networks in relation to connectivism, will be the introductory section (pages 9-13) where the authors discuss their understanding of the terms ‘community’ and ‘network’ – how these are similar, different, overlap.

I, like many others before and after me, once asked Etienne Wenger – ‘What is the difference between a community and a network?’ His response at the time was – ‘All communities are networks, but not all networks are communities’. It is interesting to see this thinking expanded and further explained in this recent publication.

In line with this evidence of changing thinking over time (which we also see in relation to connectivism), it is interesting to read Chris Kimble’s article – Communities of Practice: Never Knowingly Undersold – written in 2006 – but still relevant to these discussions. This acknowledges the ambiguity surrounding the meaning of the term ‘community of practice’ and discusses the reasons for this and how the term ‘community of practice’ has been interpreted and understood differently over time.

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