Posted in Blog News

Learning in networks

Credit: cambodia4kidsorg on Flickr
Credit: cambodia4kidsorg on Flickr

This is the first of a few posts which the VCSS Camp team and our colleagues will be posting to get the conversation started before the 25 June. Below Lorna Prescott shares her thoughts on social media use by staff and volunteers in an infrastructure organisation.

I’m a senior officer in an infrastructure organisation (Dudley CVS) who forced myself on to twitter about 3 years ago because of a trustee role I had for a national charity. At that time Dudley CVS weren’t doing much with social media, and for some time I was definitely the odd one out – turning up to meetings with my iPad, tweeting from our events and running around asking people what they were doing at 3.15pm so that I could share it in the #1515vcs stream. I don’t know what changed, and I’m fairly certain it was nothing that I did, but in the last 12 months or so there seems to have been a bit of shift internally, with more and more of my colleagues dipping their toe in to online social networks or – in the case of Eileen in our Volunteer Centre – diving in (I love her blog and DudleyVols tweets).

My thinking a couple of years ago was that it might be worth finding out what staff in the organisations felt about social media, what popular platforms the knew about, used and/or wanted to learn more about. (I never got around to doing this.) Then about 6 months ago I was thinking that a way for Dudley CVS to be firing on at least a few online cylinders would be to nominate people to lead on content generation and conversations for specific platforms that they liked using and then support others to start using it. So I guess I started out thinking about training needs, and then shifted to thinking about a communications need.

Then last weekend I was reading a blog post by David Wilcox which linked to this post by Steve Dale which (some way down) explains Personal Knowledge Management – or learning in networks in less fancy words. The description of it being a continuous process of seeking, sensing, and sharing made a lot of sense to me. I thought the concept of a Community Manager was helpful, and the diagram below got me thinking about what I and others could to together in our organisation to fulfill aspects of the role. Something which feels really important in working with my colleagues in relation to social media is the part of the role about signposting useful content; developing and sharing resources and best practices. This shifted my thinking from skills gaps and communication channels to thinking about how to get the great, useful stuff online in front of people and demonstrate the value in sharing.

From Steve Dale's Communities and Collaboration bog
From Steve Dale’s Communities and Collaboration bog

I also thought that this short questionnaire (also from Steve Dale) might be useful for people to get a feel for whether they are more of a collector than a connector, or perhaps a creator, a critic, a communicator or a consumer. I reckon if within a team we each knew each others strengths and preferences in this way we could work quite effectively together online.

I hope to unpack this a bit and get other ideas and inspiration at VCSS Camp. In the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences of thinking about and/or using social media across your organisation, and whether Personal Knowledge Management feels like a skill that staff and volunteers in infrastructure organisations should be developing.



Using design to make magic through @colabdudley @aplaceto_ | Curator @dofestdudley | Dudley CVS officer | RSA Public Services & Communities Fellowship Cllr

11 thoughts on “Learning in networks

  1. Thanks for the mention Lorna – and it looks like a great event. I can’t make it, but keen to share some ideas. You may have seen that the local government knowledge hub is facing closure, and that has prompted me and others to think about what this means more generally, for VCS. My posts
    At one level one could think whether a reborn hub could service public agencies and civil society, not just local government. But like Steve Dale I’m thinking more about social ecologies and networks of networks. In that context the online facilitator is having to work across networks and platforms, not just manage and connect from a big hub, and as you say we have to learn to seek, sense, share.
    The challenge then is how to become a personal knowledge hub … joining up with other personal hubs … and making knowledge as accessible and usable as possible for those less confident in using the tools. Just what you are are experimenting with.
    I really hope it is possible to develop this model with others in VCS – great that you are leading the way.


  2. Thanks David. Sorry that you can’t join us on the 25th. I’ll test the appetite for discussions about personal hubs at the event. Perhaps join it up with the community enablers thinking you are doing. If you’re like to share anything specifically on the role of VCS infrastructure in relation to digital community enablers please let us know – we can post or re-post here.


  3. Great to read yr blog Lorna – well done! Great to have comment from David Wilcox too – I was concerned to hear last week that #KHub might be closing, after all the work that has gone into it, and my thinking that we (all sectors, but especially public and civil) need it now more than ever to support and encourage collaborative work across sectors to support all our beneficiaries. I don’t think this view is universal – I applied to join another #KHub group last week (having first joined it when I worked in the public sector 2001-8) and was informed by the group’s moderator that the group was for public sector ppl only at this time. Maybe VCS infrastructure orgs (those that are still around) can encourage their public sector colleagues to try to ignore the boxes in which we previously existed, and to work more closely with VCS orgs of all sizes – isn’t that what the Localism Act anticipated? Hoping for more conversation along these lines at #VCSSCamp in Birmingham on June 25


  4. Lorna,

    sounds like a great event. Wish I could be there, but have a prior commitment. As David mentions in his response, we share a view that “networks and networking” will become (have become) required skills for today’s knowledge workers. Furthermore, technology can’t do everything for us. New and emerging digital literacies are required to make sense of a world that is likely to get ever-more complex. Unfortunately, it is still a relatively small pool of people that we need a more joined-up approach to knowledge sharing, that includes people, technology and behaviours. And it’s usually the behaviours that get ignored.

    Good luck with the conference, and I’ll look out for any posts and pics!


  5. Thanks for your comment Steve. And yes, I think it’s the behaviours that we should focus on, event though a driver for people is to learn about how to use a particular platform.

    And thanks for your thoughts Pauline. I think we can have more conversations offline too which will help. For example when we bought Brewcamp to Dudley I invited voluntary and community sector folk, and I think it was good for us to hear public sector officers talking in very human ways about their experiences of using social media, as well as sharing our own.


  6. My experience having worked as a community manager and social media person for a while is that you just need people to take the time to share online and see the value in social media before you ask them to do too much. Once they’re lured in they can learn the tools to do this quickly and efficiently alongside busy schedules. Hopefully then, they can take the opportunity to connect with those who share good content, get to know them and truly collaborate.


    1. Hi Marie. You are so right about this. I was really worried about having the time to share online before I did it and am now a convert, inserting little slots into my day to do it. Think I need some help on tools though as I get carried away sometimes lol:)


  7. Hi Marie
    Great points, and I totally agree with you. I’ve been musing on a conversation with a colleague who uses twitter effectively but feels a bit swamped with all the info available online and wans support in knowing how to get to the good stuff, and maybe ways that we can share that make sense to a number of us in the organisation. There is a real desire for some consolidation of social media platforms that we use to share externally, too. I think it’s sometimes hard to balance playing around with the new stuff and having coherent and consistent channels of communication and collaboration.


  8. Hi everyone, I have been reading your comments with interest and everyone is making some really good, valid points about using social media within their organisation.

    One of the most interesting things I have witnessed is people having a lack of confidence to find their ‘online voice’. They are confident to speak in public, on the telephone and over email but for some people I still think there is a fear of social media, even though people online are as helpful and forgiving of your mistakes as they are in person. I personally think this may have something to do with the media highlighting people saying inappropriate things online and then hounding them and making examples of them and the ‘dangers’ of social media!

    I hope my ramblings make sense and I look forward to seeing everyone in Birmingham.


    1. Carolyn you are spot on with this post. That’s exactly what happened with me. I am a very confident communicator in every other area apart from social media, where I am still finding my feet. Think the regular media features of where it’s all gone wrong and wreaked havoc are definitely to blame. Getting more confident, but feel it’s a slow process.

      Really looking forward to the event in Birmingham 🙂


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