Grassroots Community Building through Social Networks

Grassroots Community Building through Social Networks is the topic that John Gunn (Moncton ITA) and I will be discussing at PodCamp Halifax on Sunday. Lisa Rousseau can’t make it, so we’re pinch-hitting.

John and I have decided to take a look some of the professional and social networks in New Brunswick and ask the question: How can we develop community networks that address the social and professional issues unique to Atlantic Canada?

For example, I came to NB in 1995, when The Information Highway was the hot commodity and fiber cables were being strung from end of the province to the other. I even wrote my thesis on Learning in the NB Information Technology Workplace in 1998. One of the now defunct associations with which I had some contact was the NB Information Technology Alliance. The NBITA was supposed to grow the industry but by 2003 its government funding was cut and it was gone.

In 2004, I was involved in an initiative to use the Web to link organisations and individuals in the more specific area of R&D for e-learning:

With this in mind, I will try to foster communication and discussion in this forum, not the selling of a vision or a marketing plan. This community will be a place to discuss R&D issues, which will remain loosely defined for the time being. Specific deals or collaboration can take place “off-line” or outside of this venue – but this is where you can float an idea and see what happens.

This venture never gained much traction, for several reasons.

Later, more effort and a lot more money were put into LearnNB, which tried to represent both companies and individuals, a tension that was never resolved, and hence its current status on ice, awaiting an uncertain future. I gave my own prescription for the NB learning industry three years ago.

Other group-forming activities have been more social. The Cybersocials were designed to get “knowledge industry” professionals together in the main cities for a monthly social event. They waned, as many people found them to be boring, in dull venues, with more government than industry attendees and full of job seekers carrying resumés. The Fredericton Cybersocial is still active. These events originally had some government sponsorship.

This past year has seen the creation of Third Tuesday NB, which is a completely grassroots initiative. It was initiated by Dan Martell and Lisa Rousseau, who ensured that all available social media  (LinkedIn, MeetUp, Twitter, Blogs, Facebook) were used to connect people. So far, the gatherings have been quite successful. What I like about the MeetUps are that they are driven by individuals, not companies, and they attract people from many industries, not just IT or e-learning.

Now I’m starting to hear calls for another NB IT industry association, more government involvement and even a Minister responsible for ICT.

Some issues that I’d like to discuss here, at PodCamp Hfx, or elsewhere:

Is there a need for industry associations? Should they be based on companies or individuals?

What would you prefer or be willing to pay for or attend?

Are unconferences and Pod/Bar Camps the way of the future or just an alternative for the fringe? If so, are there enough of us in Atlantic Canada to have a fringe movement?

Cities-Provinces-Regions => do these boundaries matter to you?

What’s your experience? Come out and share with us on Sunday, here, or on Twitter @hjarche or @johnsgunn

* Update *

We’ve decided to start with the theme of ridiculously easy group-forming and whether media tools such as Twitter are having any influence on our communities of practice/interest. As media become more persistent and pervasive, do group-forming norms change? Is the “professional association” with its membership fees and costly qualifications to get letters behind your name, a thing of the past? We’re also going to highlight some NB people whom you may want to get to know, so stay tuned to Moncton ITA as well.

One Response to “Grassroots Community Building through Social Networks”

  1. Dan Martell


    Thanks for the great overview of the efforts being accomplished in, and around New Brunswick regarding social community.

    In addition to the ones you’ve mentioned – I’m personally committed to working on “connecting” these initiatives in a way that’s seamless, open and social.

    I’ve got a few ideas, with a big vision… but honestly,I can already see it completed in my mind. I’ve even gone as far as hiring a full time “CTO” that will work directly with me on projects to build out the infrastructure required.

    The “essence” of my vision is to bring the online -> offline in a way that can be leveraged by all, yet continue to feedback online, so we can be productive and communicate the way we love best (twitter, facebook, IM, whatever).

    It’s going to take a grassroots effort, and many people are helping out (directly / indirect) – but I do believe this is the best way.

    We don’t “need” a Minister for the ICT sector, but it would help if he “gets it” – or it might be a distraction, or just another reason for people to pass the responsibility onto someone else to get sh*t done.

    Either way, I’m not waiting. The timing is right.

    Thanks for spreading some light on things thus far.

    I’m a bit excited :-).


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