Communities of practice often grow organically from a forum to needing a website to store relevant information on to a full blown site riddled with features. As this occurs it can gradually lead to a diaspora of resources across a variety of platforms as new functionality requirements – document storage, webpage editing, calendar functionality, search and so on – become apparent. Nip this potential in the bud now by setting your community up on a single site that supports the following headings…
I’ve cobbled together some suggestions below having found them all instrumental at some time or another for promoting a network’s work back to itself:
- Homepage: introducing the community to newcomers; detailing important network news; highlighting projects people are working on
- Latest Additions: possibly based on a saved search of all site content ordered by most recently added/updated
- Search: should be prominently placed on every screen and return results from across the site
- Business: often a practice centres itself around work; in such instances this heading may be useful and it could contain brochures, marketing materials, advice on tendering, information about customers and worthwhile partners, suggested charges or hourly rates, and press releases.
- Topics: relevant articles authored by members of the network; this should be ordered into a comprehensive classification of the community’s domain/field of interest and help people doing their day to day work.
- Tools: Manipulable documents; templates, useful software, plug-ins, extensions, themes. This might include a sandpit, open permissions area where members can play with aspects of Sharepoint.
- Learning: information about universities to attend, training courses, eLearning content, chartering and other CPD information
- Links: listing other relevant external organisations/communities/sites
- Forum: This is clearly an integral aspect of the community, and where they often start off. It is great if you have a solution that has an embedded forum which is searchable from the site.
- Calendar: a diary of events showing where members can meet face to face or online for webinars etc., Events should be in .ics format so users can download to their personal calendar software
- News: could be based on a Yahoo! pipe of various RSS feeds from blogs and other relevant news sources as well as providing an archive of network news.
- People & Plans: information about community members (perhaps based on OpenID), how to join it, who does what – the site admin, events co-ordinator, academic lead, community figurehead, press officer, bean-counter and so on – and what their plans are for the Network into the future. You might also want to include information about the network’s levels of subscription and how to join the community.
- Sitemap: should be auto-generated
I may go into more detail on the headings above in due course; each has their own particular requirements. Let me know in the comments if you are stuck on a particular one.