Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Funding for Communities of Practice

Recent question to Dinesh,

Thanks for the insights about joint funding. What about the community of practice members donating money to fund their own endeavor?

Or, what about the members creating a parallel funding organization?

Farida's Comments

I am sure Dinesh will reply to this question, so thanks Dinesh. Just a couple of comments from me.

Members donating money to fund their own endeavor would surely in my opinion be a community with a cause so passionate that members would be willing to put money into it themselves. In that case I would think it shameful for an organization that does not recognize that passion and provide for the community.
On the bureaucratic front however I am not sure how that would work. Especially if the community is related to your job and you get paid to do your job and you in essence almost paid the company back to be part of a community? That would somehow not work out in a large organization especially with the finance side.
We have seen many instances where members put in their time and effort at no extra cost to the organization. They meet with their communities for dinner and pay themselves and spend the evening with co-workers. That could be considered funding a community in a way but when it comes to needing actual dollars to do something, a specific project I don't see how the "membership funding" would work.

A parallel funding organization would hold all the same opportunities and barriers as Dinesh has described. We come back again to the fundamental point of funding=ownership. Whoever that parallel organization is, would want some ownership in the outcome of the community. If that is mutually acceptable by the community, the funding organization, and the host organization then its possible to make such a model work. Again that follows the same scenarios as Dinesh has described.


Another Human said...

I have not come across these models of funding within organizations.Most of the communities are either funded(by the organization or jointly) or not funded at all.Couple of observations:

1. I agree with what Farida says about "donating money".If a community has evolved to a certain point where the members themselves start investing money (apart from time and enery)-it should be a wakeup call to the organization. Managers need to understand the increasing influence for organic structures like communities on how decisions are made. They need to step-in and ensure that the communitie's objectives are aligned with that of the organization(They need to do this without trampling the freeform of conmmunities).

2.Organizations would be extremely uncomfortable with the idea of having a parallel funding source-more so today than ever before because of compliance issues. Again as Farida points out if there is clear alignment of objectives between the organization,the parallel funding source and the members it may make sense.

But in either case if the funding is coming from somewhere else,managers in the parent organization have got to take a serious look at why this is happening? While communities for the sake of it is a good idea,Im increasingly seeing the relationship between organic entities and formal units as a "symbiotic relationship".Managers need to align community objectives to organizational objectives to ensure value is created.
And the community has to realise that to have susbtantial influence it has to be institutionalized.(Funding would be one of the dimensions).

I have also been posting my comments here as posts in my blog at http://dineshtantri.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Dinesh wrote: Managers need to align community objectives to organizational objectives to ensure value is created.

Phata writes: This is from the "formal" organization's perspective. If we define the organization as the people (which is no less true than defining the organization as the formal), then I wonder if we might be able to turn Dinesh's comment upside down to look like this:

"The people (members of the community of practice) need to align formal organizational objectives to serve the needs of the people and thus ensure true value is created."

Another Human said...

I agree with your observation. Irrespective of how the alignment happens - it is needed if the community wants to evolve to a point where it can influence organizational decisions.

As I wrote earlier Im increasingly seeing the relationship between organic entities and formal units as a "symbiotic relationship" meaning that the community has to serve the needs of its members AND the organization and there has to be value for both. This will happen once the alignment of objectives is done.

Anonymous said...

Can we learn anything from the Howard Dean fundraising story?

Is there a nugget we could apply to communities of practice?

Check out: https://secure.democracyforamerica.com/modules/contribution/contribute.php

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where you are going with the Howard Dean fundraising model. [directed at whoever wrote that comment]. I guess I see the connection, loosely, to a community of practice creating funding for itself.

If the community of practice is making a difference to the members--helping them be more effective at their work--they probably would be happy so contribute money to supporting it. Of course this depends on the work I'm sure.

And, it is kinda cool to think about a grass-roots community funding itself (and staying true to its purposes) rather than spending tons of energy trying to get the bureacracy's "buy in."

Jim Lee, PMP said...

Hi all,
Sorry I have been quiet the past few days, work always gets in the way of having fun:-)
I know the idea of a self funding community sounds way out there and I know our organizations are not ready for it but it is something to think about. If only to try and figure out how such a model might work. It might give us some ideas about traditional funding that we are not thinking about.
Having said that I still have to wonder why employees working for an organization would feel the need to fund the community themselves but make money for the organization? I know there is intrinsic value and principles and staying true to your course without financial pressure..but at the end of the day you still "work" for the company and everthing you do and accomplish belongs to them.
Now don't get me wrong here, I have been working for a non profit for 10 years so you know I am not in it for the money...but I would see a self funded community eventually stepping out of the organization since it is independent of organizational support. I don't know would that spur a competing business? I am just putting some thoughts out in case some of my comments spur some creative thoughts. Maybe we can start a discussion on what a self-funded community would like and how would that work (if it could) in a traditional business environment.

Anonymous said...

Farida wrote: "..but at the end of the day you still "work" for the company and everthing you do and accomplish belongs to them."

I think this is an underlying assumption that is not necessarily "true." Is it possible that everything you do and accomplish does not belong to "them?"

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