Escape into Organisation: Clarifying CCANZ use of Community Engagement Tools
The title I have used to describe my role in CCANZ over the years is "community developer". One way I've played this role is to write up some critical reflections on the way we are working as a CC advocate community in Aotearoa, opening up a constructive discussion (hopefully) about what we are happy with, and what we might like to do differently. In that spirit, here are some thoughts on how we are currently using online comms tools. I'm aware that due to my reduced involvement over the last year or so, and particularly the last six months, I may have missed some important discussions and developments, so please use comments on the thread to fill me in.
In his book 'The Different Drum', M .Scott Peck says that a group is able to maintain a sense of community to the degree it is willing to tolerate a certain lack of structure. He cautions against "escape into organisation" as a response to the chaos that ensues when people first take their gloves off and muck in on some potentially stressful shared work. Imposing structure does reduce chaos, and can result in a successful organisation, but at the risk of suppressing the free creativity and initiative of the community that gave rise to it.
CCANZ has an organisation, which is both valuable and necessary. Both as a structure for coordinating our work, and as an interface between CC advocates in Aotearoa and other organisations, including CC HQ, our host organisation (Te Whainga Aronui > Royal Society of NZ > OERF) , government and its agencies, funders, and other public organisations. It's essential that the CCANZ organisation (Public Lead, other staff, Advisory Board etc) has the tools it needs to communication and work together effectively, often in situations which require a level of formality in style and process.
But the CCANZ community existed before the formalization of CCANZ as an organisation, and much of the work we do as CC advocates happens outside of it, particular at the intersections between CCANZ and the other organisations and interest groups in which we work. One example is my advocacy for CC and OER within the Aotearoa permaculture movement. Comms tools set up around the level of formality required to coordinate with government and funders, are not always going to be suitable for the more agile, seat-of-our-pants collaboration we need to keep extending awareness and use of CC at the periphery of our networks. Yet at the same time, the people who serve as officials in the CCANZ organisation are also part of the CC community, and there does need to be comms channels where the two overlap.
Although a communications strategy can be designed, "if you build it, they will come" does not always work, as we discovered with the discontinued CCANZ Forums (full archive here). Also, once a comms channel is in use, it can take on a life of its own as a community within the community, as the CC-NZ list arguably has. With full awareness of these dynamics, and the aformentioned risk of falling into an "escape into organisation", I will now have a go at sketching out a rough communications strategy for CCANZ.
I have already mentioned, in the thread on website development, some of the software tools potentially available to us. Since any given comms function could (in theory) be served by a number of these elements, I think it would be beneficial to keep this thread focused mainly on listing and clarifying comms functions, but I will attempt to map out which ones our current infrastructure is implementing. I look forward to being playfully disagreed with about all of the above ;)
- Drive-by engagement: a way for people to get quick answers to FAQs, or just stumble upon us. Currently served by the creativecommons.org.nz website, and by the CCANZ page on FB.
- Casual interest (general): a way for people to get regular, low-traffic updates about CCANZ in general. Currently served by the website via RSS and Wordpress notifications, the monthly newsletter on MailChimp, by following on Twitter and FB, and the blog posts on Medium by @elizabethheritage.
- Casual engagement (sectoral): a way for people to get regular, low-traffic updates about CC as it relates to a specific sector, centred on but not limited to Aotearoa.
- Active engagement (general): a way for people to become involved in discussions about CCANZ itself and other discussions centred on but not limited to CC in Aotearoa, and receive information about events etc. Currently served by the CC-NZ email list on OnlineGroups. There have also been some in-person Meetups.
- Active engagement (sectoral): a way for people to become involved in discussions centred on but not limited to CC in Aotearoa in a particular sector, and receive information about events relevant to that sector etc.
- Active participation (general): a way for people to get involved in planning and carrying out CC advocacy projects in Aotearoa, and in decision-making about CCANZ. Currently served by this Loomio group, and the NZCommons and Workshops email lists on OnlineGroups. Maybe also by in-person Meetings?
- Active participation (sectoral): a way for people to become involved in planning and carrying out projects advocating and supporting CC use in specific sectors, centred on but limited to in Aotearoa.
- Management and Governance: formal channels for discussions and decision-making among staff, the Advisory Panel, and perhaps others (eg funders?). Currently served by an Advisory Panel Loomio group (?) and email list?