The future of education and personal development is in community of practices. I'm 10000000% convinced. Though the path may be long — we still have a lot of work to do to find better ways at making this work for both the members and the communities as organisations.
Formal qualifications are on a general downwards trend and the natural replacement for this is learning to value what already exists — the work and learning we do in community.
Afterall, it is often this community work of interconnected individuals that evolves industries as a whole.
It makes total sense to recognise and double down on community experience. 🤘🏽
A member applying for an opportunity
Imagine you are applying for a job or a speaking opportunity and you want to show your experience, credibility and contributions you have made.
You can send over or include your CV as part of the application process.
Instead of the CV just having the standard employment and education section, it has a 'community experience' section, where it shows how you have participated and contributed to the industry.
You can list out any specific contributions you have made, a talk or a published article, for example. And if the data is available to you perhaps you would take that and display it on your CV.
Below is an example of data from a Discourse member profile.
We can also learn about people and ourselves through the likes of badges.
Now, hopefully, it's not just me, but seeing this as a potential employer or collaborator would make me immediately interested in talking to this person.
Not only can I gather an immediate sense that they are active learners and contributors, I can also choose to do some member research to discover things like:
- what does this person get excited about?
- where do they seem to have expertise?
- how do they come across professionally?
- how do I rate their communication skills?
- how can I use this information to have a better and deeper interview experience?
We can do more though.
Discourse is great, but it doesn't capture the entire community experience. What about the talks we do. The volunteering we contribute. The content we write. The ideas we contributed. The feedback we get from other members.
LinkedIn has made some steps towards allowing members to contribute other aspects of their life, but it doesn't go far enough towards the community angle.
I hope in time the tools out there will get better to allow both community builders and community members to get a hold of and understand the data.
Community experience as standard
However, in the interim, there is no reason why we can't take action now. As a habit, people everywhere should be putting their community experience on their professional profiles.
It should become the norm. And I feel that unless it becomes the norm, people won't truly embrace community for what it is. They won't invest in it. They won't buy community memberships for their employees, (and instead, always opt for overpriced training courses). They won't allocate time in employees' weekly schedule to participate in communities. They will just see community as that 'fluffy nice thing that people do but doesn't bring real impact'.
I believe we can change that. Especially in communities of practice. We can do this partly by realising the importance of our community contributions, that those that contribute to community are 10x more employable.
I guess I just wish it was easier to do from a member's perspective, it still feels like a very manual effort that could potentially be simplified. I've definitely lost track at the amount of talks and podcasts I've participated in over the past couple of years.
Tools and communities should be better at allowing members to see the value they contribute
The big trend these days is that communities are distributed. We participate everywhere. Yet we often fail to see how we actually contribute on an individual basis.
Discourse allows us to see the data within our Discourse profiles, we can easily see our past discussions and have some nice badges to be proud of. However, I personally have no way of connecting my Slack, Discord or Twitter contributions to my overall profile.
If companies are collecting data for the benefit of the community they run, it would be of such value, and perhaps an obligation, to share member data with the community and members themselves. Not only does it feel like the right thing to do, but it can also be a huge motivator for members to continue participating and contributing to the overall success of the community.
It could help members understand things like:
- As members are we even valued?
- How do we rank amongst the rest of the community?
- What claims to fame can we shout about?
- Where are my strengths or weaknesses?
- What things can I contribute more to elevate my career?
- Are there any obvious gaps that I could contribute to?
People want credibility
We all want an easier process of being recognised and being credible. We don't want to have to fight for the things we deserve. This is especially true to level the playing field from a diversity perspective, where so many of us lack the visible proof and opportunities.
Some of us oversell our capabilities, others undersell. Also, some people may not be great at interviewing, but they could potentially make up for it with their community experience. Community experience data could help fill this gap.
It will make it a no brainer for members to continue contributing to communities when they know that opportunities will come to them through the community contributions they make.
All my learning has personally been through community. Social discussions. Debates. Arguments. Forum discussions. Writing and speaking opportunities. It all adds up and can become a huge asset for members and communities, if we choose to value it.
As community leaders, we need to work towards developing these 'no brainer' win-win scenarios. With the right focus engagement and progress will come naturally. Members will win. Communities will win. Businesses will love it.