English

Seventeen years of passion

and perseverance 😀

The fall of 2022 will mark the 17th anniversary of a milestone that led me to set the following goal:

Start a  community of practice for citizens. (CoPC)

The beginning of the journey

In the fall of 2005, while completing my Master’s degree in management at Laval University, I took a course on online communities of practice.

As part of this class, I had a few books to read  including Etienne Wenger’s book titled “Cultivating Communities of Practice”.

At one point in the book, Wenger, without warning, asked this question:

“What if shared practice became the foundation of civic communities?

And what if Citizens started to design their world on the model of fractal communities, linking local and global practice development?

In other words, if you were the CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) of the world, how would you design your knowledge initiative?”

I can imagine that for you, the questioning and the resulting challenge does not create an Aha! moment in you, but for me, I immediately felt the eureka effect. 😊

Indeed, upon reading this text, I immediately realized that this is what I had been trying to accomplish since the early 90s; find a way to facilitate social development using online tools.

Now that I understood what I wanted to do, create a community of practice, and was learning how to do it, I immediately decided that I wanted to take on the challenge.

Understanding Communities of Practice

To help you better understand the challenge I was facing, it is important to understand what a community of practice (CoP) is.

A CoP is a place where professionals come together to share their experiences, knowledge and skills so that they can improve and find solutions to the problems that they face.

For professionals, participating in a CoP is very easy since they :

          • Already have the basic knowledge and skills associated with their profession.
          • Know the domains in which they practice their profession.-
          •  Share the same language.

Most importantly, they have access to theoretical models that help them evaluate their actions and those of the organizations they work for so that they can better use their knowledge and abilities.

Overall, this facilitates the various dialogues so that they are constructive, professional and respectful and allows participants to:

          • Identify solutions
          • Evaluate them in order to find the best ones considering the context, what we call best practices.
          • Implement them

A community of practice therefore allows:

          • The professionals to improve.·
          • The profession to be better perceived, as professionals are more competent.
          • The organizations that engage them to be more effective.

That’s it. This gives you an overview of what a community of practice is and the benefits that come with it.

A Beginning Is Relatively Easy

To get started, I had to identify the tool that would facilitate the dialogues and, using this tool, develop a structure that would facilitate the process by which knowledge is shared while bridging the local, national and international communities as Wenger’s challenge required.

It only took me a year and a half to complete this first part. However, I immediately realized that this would be the easy part.

Indeed, the hard part is finding a way to facilitate dialogues so that they are constructive, professional and respectful. It starts with a better understanding of :

          • What a citizen is.
          • What a society is.
          • The language used.

The good news is that the terms society and citizen are respectively on the list of the 1000 and 2000 most used words. They are therefore present in all dictionaries.

The bad news is that unfortunately, even when I consulted specialized dictionaries in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, law, etc., I could not find a clear definition of what a society is and what a citizen is. I found many descriptions but no definition.

However, in a community of practice, what we need are clear and precise definitions, because it is from these definitions that we can create models.

In the case of a CoPc, we need to know what a “good” society is and what a “good” citizen is.

These models are important because they allow us to evaluate ourselves and our societies as well as compare ourselves to our fellow citizens and compare our society to other societies. This facilitates dialogues and the search for solutions. (VIDEO)

Again, because I wanted to develop a community of practice of citizens, to help us citizens improve our societies, this first part was relatively easy.

Indeed, in developing a community of practice of citizens, it is implied that citizenship should be seen as a form of profession and that societies should be seen as a form of organization.

In fact, to say that societies are organizations should not surprise us because we are social beings. We have no choice but to organize ourselves to help meet our individual, social and collective needs and reduce the conflicts that arise from them.

Nor should it surprise us to say that citizenship is a form of profession, because organizations always belong to a person or a group of people.

However, societies are not like regular organizations, they do not belong to a person or a group of persons, but to all the citizens who live within its territory.

Therefore, the responsibility for managing societies lies with the citizens and, as citizens, we should acquire the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to play our role effectively.

Patience is required

Understanding what a society is and what a citizen is, is a very important starting point, but it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Firstly, the terms society and citizen need to be operationalized, i.e. what is a “good” society and what is a “good” citizen in order to create models.

Secondly, I still had the question of language. I realized relatively early on that many of the terms we frequently use to talk about ourselves and our societies have never been defined in a clear, precise way. They are therefore vague.

In addition to the terms citizens and societies, terms like organization, system, freedom, have never been clearly defined.

For example, Luc Brès  has identified 17 different definitions of the word organizations in books used to train managers in MBA programs.

XX has counted more than 100 definitions for the word system.

As for the word freedom, the recent pandemic has demonstrated beyond any doubt that we do not all share the same definition of what freedom is.

Also, I needed to have a better understanding of the word citizen. Besides the fact that as citizens we are all co-owners of the societies in which we live I had to understand the mechanisms that make that, although we are all co-owners, some citizens have more privileges.

Realization

My research led me to create two social innovations

          1. A new management science
          2. A community of practice of citizens

SOCIETALogy

As my research progressed, it became clear that a new management science was emerging.

This new science allowed me to study societies as organizations and citizenship as a profession, which are in fact two sides of the same coin.

Indeed, societies are only the result of our individual, group and collective actions.

Thus, to better understand our societies we must therefore understand the individual, social and collective needs of citizens and how they organize themselves to achieve them.

This science is called SOCIETALogy and you can have more information on the subject, by visiting the site of the Institute of SOCIETALogy that I am starting.

Citizens & Societies

Naturally, the first objective of my research was to have the necessary knowledge to create a community of practice of citizens.

This first CoPd, which is called Citizens & Societies, is in pre-launch. Although it is in English only for the moment, other languages will be added as resources become available.

You can participate in its growth by registering here.

If you need more information, please contact me.