Peter Ballantyne proposed to do a project about our tagging experiment. We are using the unique tag NPK4dev (non-profit knowledge management for development) to tag resources on knowledge management in a development context (you can see the tagcloud here). We worked for one afternoon with 7 people, after which everyone disappeared except Christian, George and myself. The three of us then continued to produce this video to explain the usefulness of social bookmarking for individuals and groups with a common interest. We used the commoncraft videos about RSS and wikis for our inspiration! We had to make it in roughly 1,5 hours, so we didn’t have time to make more drawings. We had to do it three times (the first two times we made major mistakes). The first time we had placed the drawings neatly in a row, so our task of putting the images was easy. The third time, though, every thing was a mess, so we were crazily searching for the relevant images.

Click To Play

Christian was so nice to make a timeline of the NPK4Dev tag that we are using to tag resources about knowledge management in a development setting. (here‘s the blogpost) The timeline is brilliant, you can see blogging and ‘howto’ are big hits topic and recently agriculture scored high. If you’d be a facilitator of a community of practice and everyone (or the majority) of the people are tagging, it would be a perfect tools to monitor the interests.

Some new ideas I gained:

  • The way Christian is able to digest flows of information and pick up interesting stuff amazed me as compared to other people who complaint about information overload when a list produces more than 3 mails per week. I guess the keeping track of RSS feeds and scanning information is a new skill. – let alone reading it. It also depends on how you define your professional need for keeping up with information and recent developments.
  • We can make a next step with our tag by offering several subfeeds by combining tags. For instance npk4dev+blogging can make for a feed on blogging for development. npk4dev+news can generate a news feed.
  • If you’d be a facilitator of a community of practice and everyone (or the majority) of the people are tagging, it would be a perfect tools to monitor the interests and it can help you in the preparation of events etc.
  • You can combine the feed with a customized search engine eg. google coop to make searching in the links easier.
  • It’d help to make sense of the flow if you could highlight excellent resources, either by rating, or by adding a tag like top10. Then you could highlight the top resources in another space (wiki, newsletter, whatever) for people for whom following the feed doesn’t work.
  • Generally speaking, you help the users (especially for people without broadband connections) by working on the information, by printing lists, printing top information, adding top resources in websites or wikis, sharing summaries in discussion lists, etc. (you’d have to work out what works for people).
  • Magnolia seem to offer more and better features than delicious, like taggers profiles and community spaces and better tagcloud options. (hmm, should we all shift??)

Click To Play

Before I had time to unpack my bags I was facilitating an event in Lisbon. While I had thought I would use some of the tools and tricks I might picked up over the last couple of days, I didn’t.

I have, however, as one participant pointed out, integrated a new piece of language into my repertoire of practices: it’s a sort of ppp*** sound that indicates I’ve finished my point.

That made me think of the success of learning at a community event – it’s as much about the way your trajectory of being is shifted as you (often) unknowingly adopt other people’s mannerisms and practices as it is about absorbing or collecting information and stuff.

Community profiles

June 23, 2007

Community profiles

I loved this way of creating a community profile and have captured each one in flickr. There might be people who don’t want their profile in flickr and I’ve been through an internal conversation about whether or not they should be there without getting permission first.

Thoughts? Strong feelings?


From CP2 discussion I took that table to KM4dev, read here about the process.
So what were some of the results of our discussions about self financing options for communities? After all this talking, I myself feel like I have really come to understand the issue at a deeper level. However if I look at the actual results they seem meager, almost cliché.
See below the smaller table.

possible sources of revenue types examples
Volunteer time   as in ultra-lights, and in many other communities as well. community members and leaders contribute their time for they see value (eg. learning, contacts, prior investment in network)    
Membership fees individual members  
  corporate members  
Transaction based fees selling goods or services books, events, training, reports, qualifications, recruitment/headhunting, ‘insight’ into community, advise, lobbying, consulting, research, publishing, advertising
  either within the community or outside
  sometimes services are custom made to client, eg sponsors who pay for specific task
parent organization / sponsorship for ‘general’ task eg. FAO communities (are almost internal communities, fully dependent)
eg2. the 6 dutch orgs who collabaratively sponsored km4dev2007-event
Donations some blogs, many open source software projects  
Public / research (EU?) projects community may be result of project, or “carrier”of other projects  

In KM4dev we had to report on our project, but powerpoint presentations were not allowed. We rebelled, and made a powerpoint as cheezy as possible. Here it is Community in business.ppt


  • Financial models cannot be seen as separate from the content or organizational model of the community. Value for members is overriding principle in everything. Except in financial terms, site statistics help to understand what represents value to users.
  • The real basic models are few (transaction, membership and some more that are difficult to classify under those main two), but variation within those is wide. Transaction fees over products and or services seems what is most interesting, most divers. Within that, there seem to be no real “basic models” that have proved to work for large numbers of communities.
  • Advertising by itself is not usually a viable option for communities that are not huge.
  • The lack of legal entity is a constraint as well as a blessing. Work-arounds are to borrow the entity and structures of others. If rotated this can result in a autonomous community.
  • The ultra-light model, for many reasons, seems to be the only “no-headache” option.


  • Can we find a few well-documented or well-known communities of each type, to act as case-studies?
  • Sometimes communities stop existing because funding stops. Is there a moral and a commercial ground for ‘taking over’ communities that run out of funding; like a foster home for orphaned communities?
  • Can we think of a cost-covering basic model for communities for local development?
  • How can communities and associations collaborate?
  • Most communities “grow” from companies or ngo’s. Can it be the other way around? Can an existing community jointly decide to become a company or ngo? What does it mean for the commuity? Examples?
  • Sermo is an example where the communitiy is funded because insurance companies like (=pay) to watch the ongoing interactions between physicians. What are parallels in other settings? Policy makers like to “watch” agricultural communities, migrant communities, marketeers may want to watch consumer communities. Who might be interested in your community?
  • There is quite some thinking on sustainability of organizations. Can we borrow / think similarly for communities?

Josien Kapma – Portugal

Communities in business

June 22, 2007



The question

How can communities be self-financing? In my dealing with our group of dairy farmers it had often occurred to me: how to find some money to pay for the costs of running the community, and also for some of the work done? In all development work there is so much emphasis on sustainability, but for communities many seem to take for granted that they are externally financed.

CP2 – KM4dev – back to CP2 – and onwards

When looking at how other communities do it, it was clear that many struggle with it. I decided to bring it in as a “project” for the KM4Dev workshop in Zeist, the Netherlands. Even before that, during the CP2 dialogue in Setúbal at the end of May 2007, this issue was discussed. Together with John D. Smith, and with help of others, we further looked into it after the dialogue. I brought the results of those discussions with me to KM4Dev. This is what the project at KM4dev had as an introduction:

  • Title of the Project: Community in Business, exploring (self-)financing models for “communities” that use web2.0 tools
  • Brief description: Web 2.0 tools offer possibilities to communicate, organize or collaborate where before this would not have been possible or too expensive. This could offer a huge potential for development. Communities can be formed for joint learning and information exchange, e.g. for local initiatives of a particular region, or of peers like farmers, or micro entrepreneurs. Such communities may have a large value for the users or for development in general, but may not be institutionally sustainable when costs, however low, cannot be met in the long run. Leaders and technology stewards burn up, if not rewarded sufficiently, whether in financial or other terms. Traditional financing models, either membership or transaction based fees, are no longer always applicable. On the other hand the web presence may offer new opportunities. How can these “communities” incorporate sound financial models? What are designs that in an early stage take this cost-coverage issue into account? What can local private businesses contribute?

With a small group of sometimes varying participants we worked on the project. At several sessions, and once extensively over dinner, we explored some of the issues:

  • inventory of our experiences with similar communities, and the financing models in use, analysis of success stories;
  • brainstorm of possible financing models (looking also at non-development sectors).

We did not come to the point of the other stages;

  • elaboration of one or a few selected models for financing of communities.
  • test, further develop and promote ‘proved’ models.

Some results in next posts.

Josien Kapma – Portugal

Before I forget……

June 21, 2007

I’m just back home from KM4Dev2007 and so completely fatigued I’m convinced it must be the right time to throw some thoughts into the blog, although my current efforts to create an ergonomic work environment out of a deck chair and a couple of boxes are failing miserably. It is amazing how distracted a person can be in an empty house whose only furniture is an air mattress, a deck chair and a floor lamp – and did I mention the boxes?

Oh well, on to the real content, but I warn those who may be looking for something concrete to prepare for disappointment…it will take me a long time to realize what I’ve learned, felt and talked about over the past few days, but there are some highlights…

Wearing a participant hat at a workshop is something I haven’t done in a while. I really looked forward to be able to engage in dialogues much more than I could as a facilitator, and I was not disappointed. But one thing that surprised me was in addition to extra room for dialogue, I also had room to observe the workshop as a historical moment in the life of km4dev and in the lives of the individuals flowing in and out of the community and the workshop! It gave me all sorts of impressions about km4dev as a kind of organism that is somehow becoming more complex, yet stronger and with the capacity to generate great insights and to exist as something that is not just the people who collectively make up what we call the community, but a social space that itself influences the debates, the feelings, the sense of common purpose, the capacity for the workshop and the community to present itself to, absorb feedback from, and respond to questions, frustrations, and ultimately its own need to grow and change despite recognising all the dangers implied by such change (one of which to me is that it necessarily becomes km4dev communities, with greater or lesser engagement with each other, rather than one big community).

For me part of the magic was the mix of old and new: people who have been there for a while, those who’ve just shown up; ideas that have been bounced around here and there for years, and new spins on existing dialogues; older people and younger people sharing experience and enthusiasm. Sometimes it hurt, but not everything that’s good for you feels good….

KM4Dev2007 showed the community to me in a new way, and it gives me the feeling that I can have a deeper understanding of how it works if I just persist a little bit. I’m sorry that, like every social event, whether face-to-face or virtual, the workshop can’t help being exclusive because it just isn’t possible to have everyone there who might have an interest in being there, and anyway if everyone were there, it would be a dramatically different event. I’m also starting to appreciate as a human being, that the fragmentation of experience which happens by having different collections of people from the same community together at different times is part of what keeps that community enough on its toes that it doesn’t stagnate.

For those who were there, thanks for all the interactions, emotions, thoughts and trust. For those who weren’t, see you next time! For both, a small nugget of something learned this time around: several people in different sessions mentioned either their sense of confusion around what was being discussed at the time, or their sense of others being confused, but the interesting things I heard were that many people were happy and confused at the same time, or that they saw the value, if not the need for such confusion. So, I offered a word to describe some of that:

Confusiasm 🙂

Riff Fullan

For a while I had been thinking about using some graphic facilitation but I kept shying away from it because I am not much of a graphic artist. Well , in her workshop, Nancy managed to “liberate me from my censor”. I found out that to practice graphic facilitation you didn’t need to be a talented artist, that with just a few tips in your pocket you could start experimenting with it.

 Among the many tips that Nancy shared here are a few I found particularly useful: 1)Precise your intent: record the discussion or stimulate creative thinking? 2) Use a global metaphore as the background structure (mandala, tree, mountain) 3) Use words as art 4) Draw simple shapes  5) Tie up the pieces together with lines, arrows 6) Draw shadows to emphasize the important stuff…

The beauty of graphics is that, because of their relative imprecision, they leave more space than text for negociation of common meaning. The tips I gathered today will also be useful to enhance my mindmapping repertoire (I use mind mapping to sort out my thoughts when I get confused).

In this workshop, I definitely learned something that I will apply. Thanks Nancy,


Magic trick (with loop)

June 19, 2007

During the initial ice breaking session, participants were asked to groups themselves by age group. They then made a sound to represent their group. Under 30, 30-40, 40-50, and 50+. The results were not surprising. A small number under 30, majority 30-40, big chunk of 40-50, and another small number over 50. While one could philosophize the deeper implications of the breakdown by age, the sounds are telling.