Guidance

Community development framework

This guidance aims to help people develop and manage communities of practice across government.

Government communities

Communities can develop around a shared interest, purpose or circumstance. This framework is for communities of practice made up of people who share common job roles, responsibilities or remits.

Having things in common isn’t enough to make a community. The most important thing is regular interaction and creating opportunities to share knowledge, ideas and experience.

What the framework does

This community framework aims to help those who are developing a community of practice within government. It’s mainly for people in digital roles or working on digital products and services.

The framework is intended to provide community owners and members with a common vocabulary and set of approaches. It’s aimed at helping communities to function more effectively and efficiently, as well as enable ongoing development and capability-building.

The term community management is sometimes used in relation to social media. This guidance won’t help with that user need: consult the GDS Social Media Playbook for advice and tips on how to use social media to engage with communities.

Who could be a community member

If you’re involved in a community of practice, you’ll have common goals, tasks, challenges and solutions, and so may benefit from, or be able to contribute to, shared knowledge, ongoing learning, resources and support.

Community members may:

  • work in the same office or in different locations
  • have the same job title or be called different things
  • be well-connected or not know that each other exist
  • have had the same training, or found their way into the role by other routes
  • be the only one of their community in their department, or one of several
  • be in a digital role or just have a general interest in the subject

What communities need

Communities need development and support in 3 areas.

People

This covers who is involved with, or responsible for, the community.

Consider:

  • who belongs to the community
  • how someone might join or find themselves involved in the community, eg is membership automatic?
  • how members might know who else is involved in the community
  • whether there are different roles and responsibilities for members
  • who is responsible for the community’s development and success - do they need to have community monitoring or management as part of their job description or objectives?

Programme

This covers how the community operates day-to-day, including events and objectives.

Consider:

  • what the community is doing as a group
  • how often they interact - if it’s online or in person, in large or small groups
  • who creates the schedule of events
  • how to share successes and challenges
  • what the common goals are
  • which activities are predictable and can be planned
  • how members can get involved in organising or running events and activities

Platforms

‘Platforms’ are the places where community interaction and activity happens. These may be online or real spaces.

Consider:

  • where the interaction takes place
  • if there is a commonly owned space
  • how and where knowledge and information are shared
  • if there’s a central database of contact details

Checklist

This checklist is designed to help community owners think about community development.

You should be able to answer ‘yes’ to each of the questions, though how each is being fulfilled may vary widely from one community to another.

Working through the questions should help you gain a good understanding of which areas need attention.

Questions

  1. Is there a clear, circulated community vision or objective?
  2. Is there a clearly defined remit - can people easily understand the criteria for membership?
  3. Is there a way for community members to identify each other and find contact details?
  4. Is there at least 1 person responsible for managing information and encouraging constructive participation?
  5. Is there a way for members to interact in an informal way?
  6. Is there a way or place for people to share or archive potentially useful resources, knowledge and documents?
  7. Are there regular opportunities for community members to meet in person?
  8. Is there a published and community-owned programme of activities, both on- and offline?
  9. Are there opportunities for members to influence the activities and resources of the community?
  10. Are there clearly defined metrics and plans to measure and regularly report on community activity?

Principles

These suggested principles may help your community thrive:

  • everyone has something to contribute (even the smallest voice or newest member)
  • respect each others’ perspectives and experiences
  • ideas and opinions are shared in confidence
  • build community knowledge wherever you can. If in doubt, share it - ideas, questions and solutions
  • beware of absolutist positions - experiences vary widely across government and what’s important is to recognise and share knowledge
  • you are part of a bigger network - use it and work as a community
Published 1 July 2014
Last updated 13 August 2014 + show all updates
  1. Edited for clarity and added diagram
  2. First published.