Friday, June 17, 2005

Have any communities been funded from external sources?

"In your studies of Communities of Practice, have you ever seen an informal community generate funding outside of the formal organization?

In other words, when a community of practice gets to a point in its growth when it needs resources to continue to develop, are there options outside of fighting for funding from the traditional sources in the organization? "

Farida's comments

In my research so far I have not seen any communities that have been funded using external sources. One of the main reasons for that in my opinion is that the information shared inside communities is sensitive to some degree. Members of a CoP where trust is securely established will share their dirty laundry in hopes of being helped by their peers. The very notion of going to an external source for funding would mean that the funding source would own some of the community or at least some rights to it and that may not be in the best interest of the organization.

For example, Fluor Corporation always gets inquiries from its customers wanting to know if they can be part of Fluor's communities or if they can get access to data and Fluor has decided against it since the information shared in their communities is what gives them the competitive edge.

What I have seen are "shared service" models for communities. Chargebacks are a means of funding and several organization go that route. The Core CoP group is self sustaining in that it stays in business if it can provide value to its customers through the implementation and support of communities.

To Dinesh, thank you for your valuable insight. I am sure my readers are thrilled.


Anonymous said...

Farida writes:

"For example, Fluor Corporation always gets inquiries from its customers wanting to know if they can be part of Fluor's communities or if they can get access to data and Fluor has decided against it since the information shared in their communities is what gives them the competitive edge."

Susan writes: To join in with the others who seem to be providing a very fresh (fresh meaning different) perspective, let me try being the devil's advocate. Maybe if we "push the page a little," it might stand up straighter ;-)

You said that "Fluor has decided against it." Do you mean the formal organization? Who cares about them? What does the community of practice want to do? What choices might create the most benefit to the community of practice members while also not raising the antibodies of the formal organization to a level that it tries to squash the community of practice?

Dinesh Tantri said...

There are scenarios where joint funding(by the organization with an external entity like a partner,supplier,customer)may make sense.While information security is absolutely crucial,that should not become the bottleneck to effective knowledge sharing across the value chain. Let me explain two scenarios where this may help:

Each one sets context first and then speaks about why joint funding makes sense.

1.In the IT services sector,alliances with vendors is very crucial to deliver end-to-end solutions to customers. While many IT services companies have formal alliance groups in place to manage vendor relationship,it may make sense to augment this group with a cross-company community.However,there is a very clear understanding of what can be shared and what cannot and there are processess in place to ensure that these are adhered to.(Over a period of time this "process adherance" becomes a part of the common context of those involved).The knowledge activities could range from addressing customer issues in a joint engagement to bringing employees within the IT services comapny upto speed on the latest products from the vendor.So,if the community can augment formal structures and help accelerate the companies involved towards a win-win situation,joint funding does make sense.Where the funding should go and who will contribute what depends so much on the problem that the formal groups is trying to address.

2.Again in the IT services sector
addressing the needs of global customer needs requires a combination of nearshoring/offshoring.And most of this work is usually distributed across the globe in facilities dedicated for the customer. These facilities act as an extension of the customer premesis.There is a need to share knowledge across these facilities to adddress typical KM challenges like ensuring that we reuse best practices,present one face to the customer etc.,There have been instances when the customer recommends/suggests setting up a Community to address these issues and more.The customer could completely fund the community(As all the facilities involved serve the same customer) or the service provider and the customer could share the costs.Again unlike a typical community,the lines have to be drawn clearly.It again boils down to being a balancing act.Do the serive provide and the customer see a win-win situation if communities are jointly funded?

I feel that exclusive funding of a community by an external entity might be a bit over board.My gut feeling is that this may make sense in not-for-profit community attempts.(Like the WHO or the FAO communities where the sources of funding may not always be the parent body). For all other organizations "Joint funding" to solve common issues makes more business sense.

Anonymous said...


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?

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