Measuring your community of practice

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Ok, this title feels like clickbait; it’s such a common question I get asked and will likely entice some people and annoy others. So in this post, I will share some tactics and approaches to help your communities thrive while giving those putting pressure on you something to make them happy.

I’ve been working with communities of practice for many years and all too often, I hear people wanting to measure communities of practice through numbers that can be little more than vanity metrics. For example, how many people are in the community and how fast is it growing?

Vanity metrics make us feel good but don’t help us do better work or make better decisions.

amplitude.com/blog/vanity-metrics

I get why people jump to these; they are easy to measure and will likely give you a nice growth chart. But how do you dig deeper to get something more useful to help the community and its enablers make better decisions and keep it thriving?

The three areas of measurement

There are three areas I usually look at to help understand how well a community is doing.

Engagement of members

Effectiveness for members

Effect on the wider ecosystem*

(* I’ve called this impact in the past, but hey, three Es are way catchier!)

Engagement of members

Let’s start with the one everyone talks about. This is not about numbers; growing bigger is not always helpful, especially in the early stages of building a sense of community and strong bonds to underpin the community.

Think about

  • Who do you think you should be reaching right now, and how many of them are you reaching?
  • What percentage of those people take part meaningfully in community activities? (meet-ups, forums, messaging tools, working groups etc.)
  • What is your proportion of core, active and occasional members, and does this feel right for the maturity stage you are at?

Effectiveness for members

Next up is how successful is the community in providing value for its members? Over the years of working with communities of practice and through my research, I have identified five benefits.

Images showing:
Communities of Practice  help support us and give us confidence and motivation. 
Communities of Practice help us learn and grow our skills getting better at what  we do, together.
Communities of Practice help us share our knowledge and join up related work.
Communities of Practice help us scale our ways of working and share common approaches across teams.
Communities of Practice help us collaborate and create better practices for everyone.

I use these benefits to ask questions that help understand how valuable the community is to the members, and you can do the same using my online tool here hellotacit.com/community-of-practice-review

Effect on the wider ecosystem

And last but not least. What is the effect or impact of the community on the wider ecosystem? I have put this last because it’s essential to focus on building a sense of community first, and it may not come until the community is a bit more mature.

Think about

  • How do people outside the community view it?
  • How are people outside of the community benefitting from the work it does?
  • What has the community put in place that has become part of the wider ecosystem?

-o0o-

These should be a helpful steer and a great place to start; let me know in the comments.

Please get in touch if you want to chat more about how I can help you review, embed or supercharge your communities.

Header photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash.

3 Comments

  1. Fabulous work Emily thank you for this and for showing me what to focus on when building communities.

  2. I also have 3E — effective, efficient and enjoyable experience — in my remote work practise… which reminds me I would like to have a conversation with you about Virtual Team Talk community of practise 🙂

    • I love your 3rd E Nenad, working in organisations that support Communities we can often forget that enjoying a COP is key to sustaining a COP.

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