Valuing Communities of Practice
Communities of practice can be groups of colleagues, peers or like-minded professionals. These communities are valuable for our professional and personal development. By connecting with people in our field of practice or study we can learn from others, have our ideas challenged and voice our concerns. As I explored in ‘Reflective Practice, a Social Responsibility‘; it’s of upmost importance that we’re able to critically evaluate our work from a perspective other than our own, especially as designers since we’re creating products which will likely be used by diverse groups of people. So having a group of people who will honestly and constructively give us feedback on our work plays a part in growing and developing as a practitioner.
Communities of practice may be formed around a common interest or goal. Heidi Ellis, one of the founding members of the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) project emphasised the benefit students can gain by contributing work to open source projects. She relates examples of students who made leaps in their professional journey by contributing their work to disaster management software. Therefore learning valuable skills and gaining recognition in their field. (Ellis.2021)
As Alcwyn mentions in the first video of this weeks chapter, it’s of particular importance that we reach out to communities in the context that we’re in as MA students at Falmouth (Parker.2021). We’re enrolled on an 100% online course with peers dotted around the world. Apart from the obvious community we have of our course peers, we can enhance our professional development by exploring communities of practice beyond the university. For those of us who have particular areas of interest or expertise we can find a diverse range of online or local communities that focus on a niche area.
My Personal Experience
Studying this module has given me the chance to reflect on how I can make the most of the communities I’m a part of. I recently joined Climate Designers, a group of design practitioners who focus their creative talents towards solving our climate crisis. This is an area of personal and professional interest for me, yet I had simply neglected the group so far. So this week I got more involved by introducing myself and signing up to join their team of designers creating ‘climate design guides’. I feel that this could be an excellent opportunity to learn from practitioners with years of experience and different expertise.
Another community I was actively a part of is that of Ardea Creative, the remote studio I run with my business partner. As we formed our branding studio we organically gathered a group of entrepreneurs with the shared value of using business for social and environmental good. The Facebook group is 157 members strong and in our first year of business it was an active hub of conversation, advice and even workshops. Today though, most have grown tired of Facebook, for obvious reasons, and as the business grew we had less time to facilitate the group. I’m prompted to re-consider what community means to us as a business, to consider moving the group to a different platform and see whether current members would still like to engage.
The missing piece for me in terms of community right now is local, physical groups and events. I usually frequent coworking spaces, but due to the pandemic this hasn’t been an option over the past year. I also live between two countries and have moved around a lot, so my ‘local area’ isn’t so established. Reflecting on pre-pandemic life when I would often meet up with other freelancers to exchange ideas, I realised that I want this again. Yet with the current context and the fact that I’m spending summer in England, this will be an idea that I plan to re-visit at the beginning of 2022, it’s in the diary for now.
This week has reminded me of the importance of professional communities, it’s clear to me that my journey on this masters course will be enhanced by active participation in communities of designers and professionals with shared values. Not to mention making the most of the community of Falmouth University peers who I am slowly getting to know.
I’ve been slow introducing myself to online design communities, since I’m relatively new to the industry. However I notice that being part of UX design at Falmouth has enhanced my confidence in introducing myself to these communities. That and an update of my portfolio set the stage for me to jump in and introduce myself to Climate Designers, and commit to a group zoom meeting in two weeks. As part of improving my time management I’ve been blocking out time for specific university activities, I’ve now added ‘1 hr community engagement’ to the week, which will encourage me to engage with the communities I’m a part of as well as discover others. In fact, this could me a SMART goal, which will help me to stay accountable and consider the realistic specifics around the goal.
During module 2 I will spend 1 hour each week engaging with communities of practice. This can look like posting on LinkedIn, engaging with the Climate Designers forum or taking part in one of their live meetings, reading and commenting on UXD community blogs on Medium. This will be on a Monday or Friday.
ELLIS, Heidi. 2021. ‘Week 9: Heidi Ellis on Open Source Communities’. Falmouth University [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/912/pages/week-9-heidi-ellis-on-open-source-communities?module_item_id=54141 [accessed August 4th 2021]
PARKER, Alcwyn. 2021. ‘Week 9: Researching Communities of Practice’. Falmouth University [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/912/pages/week-9-researching-communities-of-practice?module_item_id=54138 [accessed August 4th 2021]
Fig 1. Silhouette collage. Illustration by author (created August 9th 2021)
Fig 2. ‘We Are Climate Designers’ badge. 2019. The Determined. Available at: www.climatedesigners.org
Fig 3. Illustration by author (created in 2018)