Thursday, April 9, 2020

Building Participation in On-Line Communities

In articles on the Tutor/Mentor blog, and on this blog, I've written about building networks of people who would work collectively to solve complex problems. I've also pointed to social network analysis (SNA) tools to map participation in events, as a resource for understanding how well different groups are doing in building engagement, and thus stimulating greater growth.

Below is a graphic showing two maps created using NodeXL SNA tools. They show two on-line events held during the first week of April 2020.

#SkollGoesVirtual (click here)  #CarnegieSummit2020 (click here)

The Skoll World Forum, organized by the Skoll Foundation, was originally scheduled as a face-to-face event, to be held from March 31 to April 3, 2020.  Due to Covid19 it was rapidly changed to an on-line format and the public was invited to join in on many of its on-line presentations, and to interact on Twitter using #SkollGoesVirtual.  I participated in one live session and then later watched two recorded sessions. I shared ideas on Twitter as I did. Here's the link to the  map shown above.   I waited too long to ask NodeXL to create this analysis, so the information shown represents the final 3 days of the on-line conference, plus conversation extending into the next week.

The Carnegie Forum was also originally scheduled to be a face-to-face event, from April 1 to April 3, 2020.  It also moved to an on-line format, using #CarnegieSummit2020.  The map shown covers Tweets from Sunday, March 29 to Saturday, April 4th, the full period of the Summit.

Unfortunately, there was a fee to participate in the Carnegie Forum, and workshops and keynotes were not streamed live on-line.  You can clearly see this impact by looking at the top map, where Tweets of 1139 Twitter users are shown; with six major clusters, representing different segments of the Skoll World Forum, while on the bottom there are 231 Twitter users, shown in one big cluster, representing information shared by the Carnegie Foundation, along with limited participation in additional clusters.

view map here
I've been trying to harness network analysis for more than 10 years. At the right is a map showing participation in tutor/mentor conferences which I hosted in Chicago in past years. See it on this 2010 blog, created by a volunteer from India who worked with me for a few months.

In 2012 interns from South Korea did an analysis of the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum.  Here's one PDF showing that analysis. Their work is described in this blog article. 
created by interns in 2012

Unfortunately I've never been able to find volunteers who would do this work consistently, nor dollars to hire people to do it.

I learned about NodeXL in 2015 and wrote this introduction. Since then Mark Smith has been incredibly helpful in creating maps for me.

Thus, I've been sharing NodeXL maps of events for several years to encourage more leaders who organize face-to-face events to build parallel on-line activities, to engage more people in the event, increase idea sharing among participants with each other, and stimulate more on-going interactions, which are essential to any consistent and growing movement-building.

If you're in the crowd, are
your ideas being heard?
The graphic at the right expresses my feelings. If  you're sitting in a big room, you're being talked at, not with. You can barely exchange ideas with other people at your own table, let alone at other tables.  Yet you're there because you want to learn, and you want to share. You care about the topic that's being discussed. You have ideas to offer and you probably have needs for support of your own work.

On the Internet anyone has a chance for their ideas to be heard.  Organizers need to be making consistent efforts to encourage this. Network analysis maps can show how well this is happening.

It only takes a few people
to change the world.

Margaret Mead's famous quote was "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has,"

It Takes A Village to Raise a Child, is a related quote, based on an African proverb.

In both cases, that small group must be able to spread its ideas to larger and larger groups, with a mix of talents and networks, to truly change the world.

Network analysis tools like NodeXL can help event organizers and network builders better understand participation in events they organize, and adjust strategies so more people get involved in future events.  It's a tool to help connect networks, and bring people from silos, into collective efforts focused on common goals.  Without mapping participation how does anyone really know who is involved, or who stays involved? Especially when thousands of people need to be involved.

Today I participated in a ZOOM event hosted by Mark Smith of NodeXL, with people from around the world. You can find many and get to know their work, by visiting this Twitter list.  Or search for Twitter articles using #NodeXL hashtag, then browse articles being shared so you can learn ways to apply social network analysis in your own efforts.

Adopt this strategy
I keep looking for partners, and for people who are using network analysis tools for this purpose, and who write articles similar to mine, to help make sense of the information shown on these maps. In this article I invite universities to create an on-campus Tutor/Mentor Connection where students apply ideas I've been sharing for 20 years. One of those would be doing network analysis maps to help build participation in community-campus collaborations.

 If you're doing that please connect.  You can find me on Twitter @tutormentorteam. I'm on Facebook and LinkedIn, too.