I’ve followed this thread for a couple weeks now, and those of you who have posted make me want to examine WHY cohorts and communities matter in my academic/non-academic life (I don’t think the two are easily separated). So here is a case study of one person. First, cohorts and communities matter because they get me going each day and make me energized about my work – faculty cohorts; consultant cohorts for professional workshops; scholarly cohorts in my fields of specialization. I read and post to the list servs and blogs of these communities and talk f2f or digitally with individual members frequently. Another reason why communities matter is that they offer ideas, action buddies, and thinking spaces for particular issues that ignite me – cohort organizations such as CCCC, League of Women Voters, AAUP, and the Audubon Society. I go to these cohorts for advice, friendship, group power. A third reason for my participation in cohorts is that they help me build what I want to build. Program cohorts can design new degrees; distance education proponents can invent new delivery methods; believers in WID (writing in disciplines) can change university culture; experts in university-corporate partnerships can redraw boundaries. A forth reason for cohorts is that they help me evaluate and assess how I spend my time – peer reviewers of scholarly work let me know if I’m on the right track, and students who assess my courses keep them fresh.
It may seem that this post is looking backwards to the WHY instead of the HOW when it comes to building digital cohorts, and it’s true that some of my cohorts and communities are not digital, but many are, and all have digital components. I stay active in them because they give me insight into what I am doing and why. For example, they shine a light into black boxes of practice. When I’m co-authoring an article, my digital writing group lets me know who is writing each day and for how long and reminds me to analyze the data and write it up, too.
A take-away from my one-person case study is that keeping a community active (whether digital, hybrid, or f2f) depends on its exigency for its members. As for building a community, never underestimate the power of asking someone to participate, just as I was asked to write this post. Maybe it’s as simple as posing an authentic question and really listening to the answer. So here are my questions: Who might you invite to join you in one of your digital communities and why? I’m listening.