Community Conversations

When I chose this book to review for the Mini Book Expo for Bloggers I expected it to be about, what else? – building on line communities.

The book (written by Paul Born President and Co-Founder of Tamarack an institute for community engagement) in actual fact is about building communities in the real world and what became apparent to me when reading it is there are many parallels between building real life communities that make a difference and building them online.

The book starts with a poignant example of a community organisation that was built, against all the odds, amid war torn Belfast and successfully brought the 2 sides in the conflict together because they opened the channels to allow each side to converse.

Born, lists four building blocks to successful community conversations: Conversing, Engaging, Collaborating and Vision. It is interesting to note that these same key pillars are pivotal in building social media communities too.

In the second part of the book, the author focuses on examples of successful community conversations and the techniques used to make them so. He points out that conversation cafes are great to stimulate discussion and can be conducted online. Peer to peer discussions (no not the technical kind but real peers brainstorming and stimulating discussions with other) can get the collective juices flowing (I see this happening on Twitter all the time). And finally, using visual stimulants, movies and photos to encourage conversation works really well.

Whilst not exactly the book I was expecting, I was surprised to find so many valuable ideas and practices that apply to the virtual world and can easily be adapted to stimulate conversation online. Perhaps next time I should read the book synopsis more closely but for now I am glad I didn’t – I would have missed this gem.

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