Category Archives: Community Engagement

Breaking the Ice Well, Part 2

Breaking the Ice Well, Part 2

2017 marked the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Here, Fellows Allen Pope, Amber Budden, and Stefanie Butland and mentor Aidan Budd discuss facilitating interpersonal community interactions in person.

Photo credit: Jaymantri, https://www.pexels.com
Photo credit: Jaymantri, https://www.pexels.com

As we discussed last time, the purpose of icebreakers is to bring together a group of people (e.g., professionals, students, community members, etc.) and facilitate social cohesion for the purpose of having them start learning together, benefit from shared experiences, and collectively ‘produce’ during the course of the event. These introductory activities start building shared understanding within the group and allow the group to begin to work toward shared goals.

You’ve chosen an activity or two that suits your community and your specific situation – now what?

Continue reading Breaking the Ice Well, Part 2

Breaking the Ice Well

Breaking the Ice Well

2017 marked the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Here, Fellows Allen Pope, Amber Budden, and Stefanie Butland and mentor Aidan Budd discuss facilitating interpersonal community interactions in person.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia
Photo credit: Wikimedia

The purpose of icebreakers is to bring together a group of people (e.g., professionals, students, community members, etc.) and facilitate social cohesion for the purpose of having them start learning together, benefit from shared experiences, and collectively ‘produce’ during the course of the event. These introductory activities start building shared understanding within the group and allow the group to begin to work toward shared goals.

As CEFP Fellow Melissa Varga wrote: “It can be a little nerve-wracking to bring people together in person, but there are some tactics that can help people ‘break the ice.’ Icebreakers are a great way to help get everyone on the same page and get people chatting to one another. They can be silly, or they can be more structured and topically focused; the goal is to get people to introduce themselves and get comfortable.”

But, as a community manager, where do you start with implementing and designing an Icebreaker during an event?

Continue reading Breaking the Ice Well

Part 3 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Transcending Disciplinary and Thought Boundaries with “Project Commons”

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf wraps up his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

If you have been following my series of blog posts (thank you!), I have probably succeeded by now in convincing you that iUTAH was a large, complex, and diverse project that would pose any number of challenges for even the best-trained and most well-resourced community manager. Having already shared my thoughts on how to deal with geographic dispersion and institutional diversity, I want to end by considering a third and final challenge: transcending boundaries imposed by collaborators’ differences in disciplinary background.

Jargon, Jargon, Everywhere!

From the very beginning, iUTAH was conceived as an interdisciplinary project spanning research, training, education, and outreach; and involving academic and non-academic partners, their stakeholders and the general public.  It is this set-up that made the project unique in our state and has allowed it to develop deeply impactful and societally relevant research over time.

But, for this to happen, we first had to build a space where professionals from disciplines as diverse and distinct as hydrology, biology, aquatic ecology, civil engineering, sociology, applied economics, geology, geography, urban planning, landscape architecture, atmospheric science, and communication science could all come together to collaborate to address and (hopefully) solve real-world problems. The Science of Team Science tells us that interdisciplinary teams produce more impactful research. But team science is also a high payoff-high risk proposition and many teams fail. This is because the very characteristics of teams that make them such powerful tools to address critical issues also make them susceptible to failure:

  • Practitioners trained in different disciplines each have their own unique jargon—the language and vocabulary they use when communicating with their peers that frequently means little or nothing to people from different disciplines
  • Methodologies used by different disciplines and areas of investigation can vary dramatically, as can the way in which they are perceived and evaluated—or judged—by others
  • Foundational approaches and philosophies can seem quite different—even incompatible—among disciplines

I learned that the hard way, when—one day—I found myself in the middle of a heated conference call that attempted to reconcile the meaning of “data” among a group of physical and social scientists. Who knew that smart, reasonable people could disagree on so much so vehemently? Clearly, this needed to be addressed before we could move forward as a team.

The iUTAH Data Policy—A First Step towards “Project Commons”

The iUTAH Data Policy was conceived quite early in our project, even before I joined. Its main purpose was to outline a common vision for and commitment to open access and public sharing of all iUTAH data. Mandated by the National Science Foundation, who funded our project, it quickly became a core value for our project and its participants.

Of course, as with many things, the devil proved to be in the details. Over the years, we realized that living up to both letter and spirit of this guiding document was frequently hindered by lack of a common language: what constitutes data, metadata, and derivative data products; what qualifies as an investigator-created resource; what is intellectual property; what are reasonable timelines to relax or completely surrender control over one’s data and research products? As it turns out, social scientists, modelers, and physical scientists all gave very different answers to these questions. Hence that conference call.

And so we modified the policy, incrementally at first, but more significantly as time went by. Designing a policy broad enough to make sure that iUTAH’s published data would be useful to everybody, but narrow and specific enough to address the unique needs of various disciplines (such as anonymization and disambiguation of human subjects data, or the treatment of model inputs, outputs, and simulation runs) forced us to align our goals, recognize and acknowledge our individual methodologies and approaches, and re-draw our mental maps to develop common ground: not just an amalgamation of individual disciplinary perspectives, policies, and special considerations, but a single, comprehensive expression of norms and values managed for the collective benefit of all—our first project “commons.”

Uniquely iUTAH

Of course, disciplinary background is not the only factor that makes our participants different from one another. We also had to contend with different professional backgrounds, different career stages, different professional affiliations and work sectors. And so, over time, other “commons” developed in the iUTAH project. Some came in the form of written documents and policies; others were more informal, such as in how we held meetings or interacted and conversed with one another; how we thought or talked about diversity, inclusion, and broader impacts; what we assumed about the person across from us, their motivations, aspirations, goals and challenges. But all were manifestations of a shared vision and purpose expressed in a common language that was universal, inclusive, and uniquely iUTAH. Collectively, they ensured that each and every one of our participants felt valued and understood. And I would argue that—across a project of over 800 participants—that is no small feat.

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Image provided by Andy Leidolf.

Part 2 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Addressing Institutional Diversity and Power Imbalance by Promoting Community Equity, Tolerance, and Fairness

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf continues his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

iUTAH—A Textbook Case for Institutional Diversity

Like most other states, Utah has a large number of institutions of higher learning: in addition to three research universities granting doctoral degrees, there are eight primarily undergraduate-serving institutions (PUIs), both 2- and 4-year. Although Utah is generally perceived as a fairly homogeneous state, there is a surprising amount of diversity even among peer institutions. For example, our research universities include both public and private universities (Brigham Young University is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka. the LDS or Mormon Church) and are situated in settings that span the rural-suburban-urban gradient. Not unexpectedly, these universities attract very different student and faculty populations.

Continue reading Part 2 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Addressing Institutional Diversity and Power Imbalance by Promoting Community Equity, Tolerance, and Fairness

Part 1 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Emphasizing “Inreach” to Overcome Geographic Dispersion

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf continues his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

The Challenge

When I began my tenure as Assistant Director of the iUTAH EPSCoR project in October 2014, the fact that the members of my research collaboration were not co-located, but dispersed among eleven institutions of higher learning spread all over the state of Utah, as well as 100 state, national, and—in some cases—international partner organizations, made settling into my position, frankly, a scary prospect. We were funded by a five year, $20M grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance Utah’s water resources through research, training, and education. This included studying the state’s water system, as well as working to understand how factors like population growth, climate variability, changes in land use, and human behavior impacted the sustainability of our state’s water resources. No small feat. How was I ever going to learn who all these people were, what role they played in and for our community, and—most importantly—how to communicate and engage with them?

Continue reading Part 1 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Emphasizing “Inreach” to Overcome Geographic Dispersion

Introduction – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf introduces his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

It’s Monday morning, 9 am. I am fresh off a two-week trip that seemed like a great idea when it was conceived three months ago. Confronted with the stark reality of my overflowing e-mail inbox, endless to-do lists spread across no less than three project management software applications, and the surly looks with which I am greeted by my co-workers, that axiom clearly no longer holds. In exactly four weeks, iUTAH EPSCoR will hold its last Annual Symposium and Summer All-hands Meeting, to cap off a successful 5-year run of advancing water science, training, education and outreach for the citizens of the state of Utah. And I am way behind.

I need to recruit people to introduce five invited talks of participants sharing their personal journeys with our project. I need to confirm 39 oral presentations spread among seven concurrent sessions. I need seven session chairs and one panel moderator. I need to sweet-talk/coerce/beg contacts at ten state institutions of higher education into convincing their top-level administrators to record a short video message congratulating iUTAH on its successes. I need to breathe. I need help. Fast.

Broader Impacts forum and workshops on March 31 in Salt Lake City UT. Credit: UU Office of Undergraduate Research
Broader Impacts forum and workshops on March 31 in Salt Lake City UT. Credit: UU Office of Undergraduate Research

Continue reading Introduction – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks

Changing our Plantae Fellows Program from Exclusive to Inclusive

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Melanie Binder discusses the Plantae Fellows Program. You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Melanie Binder, Community Engagement Manager and Social Media Coordinator for the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)

Plantae is the global community and knowledge hub for plant scientists and was developed to address the need for a community and knowledge foundation for the global plant science community. The concept for Plantae was based on input and ideas from members of our plant science community. It is a crowdsourced initiative powered by American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in collaboration with the Global Plant Council and represents our ongoing commitment to the plant science community.

Plantae is for everyone in the plant science community regardless of location or career phase, from plant science students to educators and researchers to authors, editors and professionals.

How do you support your volunteer program? Image provided by Melanie Binder
How do you support your volunteer programs?
Image provided by Melanie Binder

Continue reading Changing our Plantae Fellows Program from Exclusive to Inclusive

Considering Community: The Connect-Align-Produce network model for social-impact networks

Posted by Lou Woodley, Community Engagement Director – Trellis and Program Director – AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program

This post originally appeared on Social in silico.

Cartoon with arrows pointing from human face to human face
How many people in your network are connected to others in the network? Image credit: Jurgen Appelo on Flickr

For regular online communities, such as those hosted by an organisation, we looked at the four stage model of the community lifecycle described in Rich Millington’s “Buzzing Communities”. Last week, we considered a different type of community – a social-impact network where the emphasis is on group members working together for a social good. In “Connecting to Change the World”, the authors discuss three different stages of a social-impact network – and how it’s possible to transition between them. Let’s consider this connect-align-produce model.

Continue reading Considering Community: The Connect-Align-Produce network model for social-impact networks

Considering Community: What’s a social-impact network?

Posted by Lou Woodley, Community Engagement Director – Trellis and Program Director – AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program

This post originally appeared on Social in silico.

What’s a social-impact network?

This week I’ve been reading “Connecting to change the world” by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor and John Cleveland. It’s a focused, practical guide to building a very specific type of community – a social-impact network.

Whereas the word community has now been adopted for somewhat ambiguous use in a wide variety of scenarios involving groups of people, a social-impact network has a clear definition. It’s a collection of collaborators who are working together in some way to address a complex social issue.

Social-impact networks are self-organising – with decision-making distributed across the networks and with a structure that may change rapidly (such as the formation or closure of working groups).

Continue reading Considering Community: What’s a social-impact network?

Community Organizing Lessons for Science Community Managers

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Melissa Varga identifies ways that community management is a model of community organizing.

Posted by Melissa Varga, Outreach Associate and Online Community Manager at Union of Concerned Scientists 

South Dunedin community art project. Organised by Malcam Trust Wilkie Road, South Dunedin.
South Dunedin community art project” by Paul Allen under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Following the 2016 election, we saw a huge increase in interest and engagement from  scientists around the country who wanted to get more involved in advocacy, policy, and public engagement. At the Union of Concerned Scientists, we saw a record influx in the number of Science Network members, as well as high levels of engagement around advocacy actions—not just opportunities from our organization, but rallies and letters organized by other groups as well. In light of this I’ve been thinking a lot about the overlap between scientist engagement and community management, and how organizing skills are important for both. Building off of CEFP Fellow Rosanna Volchok’s blog post, here are a few more ways that community management is a model of community organizing.

Continue reading Community Organizing Lessons for Science Community Managers