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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    CILIP's smart communities of practice

    A posting over at Libraries Build Communities quotes a white paper [PDF] by Valdis Krebs and June Holley entitled, “Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving”. The paper starts off:
    “Communities are built on connections. Better connections usually provide better opportunities. But, what are better connections, and how do they lead to more effective and productive communities?... This paper investigates building sustainable communities through improving their connectivity – internally and externally – using network ties to create economic opportunities. Improved connectivity is created through an iterative process of knowing the network and knitting the network."
    Social Networks are not simply a product of a lot of people doing the same job, having the same interests or belonging to the same club; and neither are communities of practice. Smart communities - which will benefit individual members as well as the larger society - need to be built, or 'woven' to follow through the paper's idea. The authors begin by pointing out that in order to "improve your network you need to know where you are currently" - and that moving on, developing the community, takes some understanding and work:
    Transformation that leads to healthy communities is the result of many collaborations among network members... We can guide emergence by understanding, and catalyzing, connections... If you know the network, you can focus your influence.
    CILIP is currently focussing on its Communities of Practice, which are nodes in the larger social network. Building connections, and thus the CILIP society, can only be done through communications - not just outwards (broadcasting the community message) but inwards - listening to society's needs and concerns: 'knowing the network'. To succeed, the CILIP social network has to be effectively managed for growth, and not a network that is -
    left to grow without a plan. When left unmanaged, networks follow two simple, yet powerful driving forces:

    1. Birds of a feather flock together.
    2. Those close by, form a tie.

    This results in many small and dense clusters with little or no diversity. Everyone in the cluster knows what everyone else knows and no one knows what is going on in other clusters. The lack of outside information, and dense cohesion within the network, removes all possibility for new ideas and innovations.
    Which I suppose we would all agree, would be a Bad Thing. CILIP's review of governance and the (hopefully) long-term life of its chief means of communicating with the 'outside world' - LIS-CILIP should be positive moves towards a better and greater social network for our communities.

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