Learning Library Strategy

Overcoming Empty Community Knowledge Bases

By Richard Millington on Mar 09, 2021 07:30 am

It’s not uncommon to want a community-driven knowledge base.

Yet most organisations who enable this feature (i.e. members being able to share long-term content) soon realise it’s hard to get off the ground.

Very few people want to contribute. Ironically, the same people recommending community knowledge bases would struggle to name a single one they’ve ever contributed to (and not see that as a problem).

Your members are not going to casually drift by and decide to create a detailed piece of content.

There is a huge difference between enabling members to do something and motivating them to do it. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to boost motivation.

  1. Create the first 100 articles. No-one wants to be the first person(s) to contribute to an empty knowledge base. It’s even worse when you only have your first 15 articles or so. Then it just looks sparse and empty. If you’re going to launch a new feature, commit to doing it well.

Prior to the launch, you should have dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of articles created by yourselves and (possibly) a few superuser accomplices. By the time you launch the knowledge base, it should already look incredible.

  1. Run sprints (or knowledge hackathons) on specific topics. Create a challenge once a month (or every few months) for members to share their best resources on a specific topic (or tackling a specific challenge) in a given week.

  2. Put people in charge of specific topics . The same member who wouldn’t contribute voluntarily is likely to try to gather plenty of articles together if they feel they are the custodian of the topic within the community. Sometimes you simply need to select someone with a good track record and put them in charge of a specific set of topics or resources.

  3. Limit who can contribute to the knowledge base . If everyone can do it, there’s nothing special about doing it. Another option is to make contributing to the knowledge base something members get to do once they’ve reached a high level – and make a big deal about members who reach this level.

Don’t launch a community knowledge base to your members until you have a large number of existing articles there and a clear plan for gathering more

Multiple Ways of Knowing

Ensure that our Learning Library includes resources from all four ways of knowing.

Image Description: Diagram of Four Ways of Knowing organized as points of a compass.

  • Foundational Knowing: There at least three major foundations for how we make sense of the world: experience, indigenous/ancestral wisdom, and spiritual/natural wisdom.
  • Artistic Knowing: To understand our experiences and to help others understand them, we create representations through story, visual art, movement, music, etc.
  • Generalized Knowing: We look at patterns and experiment to create concepts. This is where academic theories and propositions live, as well as theories of change, logic models, and promising practices.
  • Practical Knowing: We act intentionally in the world in ways that are informed by our previous actions, as well as our generalized knowing. We take our generalizations and turn them into practice.

I’m currently on Step #1.

Exemplar of a Learning Libarary

I especially love how they’ve tagged their tools with

  • Stories
  • Tactics
  • Principles
  • Theories
  • Methodologies
  • Sets

That feels right-ish to me.