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Community of practice mediated by Internet: The case of Philanthropy-Quebec


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This communication reports on an experiment to create and maintain a community of practices in the sector of philanthropy. After defining such communities, and recalling its advantages, the paper describes how internet can support these communities and illustrates this point of view with the presentation of a real case, running for two years in Canada.
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Community of Practice Mediated by Internet
The Case of Philanthropy-Quebec
Michel Plaisent, Lassana Maguiraga, Prosper
Bernard, Sylvain Favreau
dept. Management and Technology
University of Quebec in Montreal
Montreal, Canada
Diane Mercier
Direction des communications
Ville de Montréal
Montréal, Canada
Abstract—This communication reports on an experiment to
create and maintain a community of practices in the sector of
philanthropy. After defining such communities, and recalling its
advantages, the paper describes how internet can support these
communities and illustrates this point of view with the
presentation of a real case, running for two years in Canada.
Keywords-community, social media, philanthropy, virtual,
internet, digital tools
The web provides an opportunity for the organizations to
share common interests and more [1]. According to Tapscott
and Williams [9], the new economy is indeed based on mass
collaboration and collaborative intelligence, especially business
networking. The influential study of Voelpel and Han [13]
states that a company’s performance is now linked directly to
the utilization and share of its knowledge resources. The
organizational capacity to be developed will depend on the way
that knowledge is produced and circulated. One of the main
beneficial approaches to knowledge sharing is thru the
development of communities of practice.
Wenger [14] defines a community of practice as “groups
of people who share a concern or a passion for something they
do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”.
They assist each others in problem solving, request for
information, discuss developments, seeking experience, reuse
assets, coordinate and prove synergy. With time their
cumulative learning leads to common practices that define the
community and improve relationships. These communities are
characterized by spontaneity and volunteer basis for
participation, and collective responsibility for managing the
knowledge they need. The community of practice members
communicate regularly with each other and seek to “develop
their competencies in considered practice….” and they work
for their members by “the construction, exchange and sharing
of a common resource repertoire.” [3]. Communities of
practice can help increase individual and organizational
performance, mainly because they make experts available,
suggest common meeting places and offer discussion methods :
“They considerably improve life at work for the people who
have been submerged in too much information. They can be
powerful resources consisting of specialists who help make
sense of many complicated documents” [5].
A community of practice can be mediated through Internet
tools namely e-mails, forums, video conferences, collaborative
tools, in order to allow its members to overcome geographical
and temporal barriers, all found in social networks websites.
What is meant by a social network? According to[7], it is a
relationship structure consisting of nodes (organizations or
persons) joined by social links (from simple acquaintance to a
family link). Among the collaboration work tools should be
noted instant messaging, chat, forums, blogs, wikis and real
time document editors, calendars, news, bookmarking, storage,
discussion lists, etc. There is a list of computer tools expanding
the discussion lists to other services such as Google groups in
In 1967, [8] proposed the theory that, contrary to intuition,
anyone could be joined to anyone else by a chain of social
relations with six degrees of separation. His theory gave birth
to the expression “a small world” to confirm this. According to
him social networks are based less on strong links (family) than
on weak links (short term, contextual).
The second generation of web aims at facilitating
communications, interoperability and collaboration on the Web
and is characterized by the following elements: improved
searching, links, updated content creation, interlinked and
collaborative, tags to categorize and thus simplify research.
According to [7], social networks capitalize, based on the
theory of weak links (6 degrees) that the user manages with a
recommendation system, developed repudiation which fits well
with referencing linked to work and sponsors; one of its
strengths would be to facilitate the attraction of new members
whom the software encourages to enter a complete profile.
Then the software helps to find people, learn about them and
locate them to build links, facilitate collaboration, and share
One of these social media is LinkedIn, actually used (as in
February 2012) by over 150 millions professionals in the world
(4 millions in south Asia) working in hundreds of activities and
almost all countries. This online service facilitates the creation
and management of an online personal network, a reputation
management tool such as a dialogue between professionals and
possibly employers, like its competitors Viadeo and Xing. It is
presented as complementary and is more geared towards the
profession than the other well-known sites: ”MySpace is the
bar, Facebook is the BBQ at the end of the garden and
Linkedin is the office, according to its founder. The main
benefits due to its use woul be the following:
increase in productivity by regrouping scattered
facilitation of e the transfer of knowledge
sharing of tools and references
better learning by sharing values, know-how, social skills
and practical elements (tools, methods, processes)
innovation(stimulating creativity, bringing forth new
diminish the location impact and reduce isolation
develop organizational and individual capacities
According to [2], social networking would be a good
opportunity for organizations in general who wish to extend
and consolidate existing informal networks and reinforce
relationships between people who already know each other,
and encourage and give rapid and consistent feedback. He
claims that social sites are the target organizations of non-profit
organizations because they allow them to enlarge their
communities, reach volunteers and localize their followers.
Our project aims at putting into place, by using such social
networking, a community of practice, in order to improve
charities governance and good management practices, namely
increasing competencies in tax compliance. This gave the
initial impulsion to the creation of our web-site and group in
LinkedIn totally devoted to create a web-community of
Philanthropy-Quebec appeals to Canadian managers by
offering a virtual place for sharing to create a real community
of practice. These managers are employees, members of
boards of directors, and other volunteers in various charity
The values of Philanthropy-Quebec are based on: solidarity,
ethics and shared knowledge. The values of the charity
organizations of Québec who find a place there for long-term
cooperation and with a perspective toward providing a virtual
network of mutual aid and the sharing of knowledge on
philanthropy. Sharing knowledge is already common practice
among well-known multinational companies (Davenport and
Voelpel, 2001), but it can be also useful for smaller companies
needing to share. The members find on the Website hosting
their community of practice several tools as well as group
access on the social networks.
Figure 1. Home Page of Philanthropy-Quebec
A. Blog
Philanthropy-Quebec makes available for its members a
bilingual blog, bringing together at least four new articles each
week. These articles are written by members of the
Philanthropy-Quebec team, talented volunteers and
professionals from the world of philanthropy. Readers of the
blog are regularly invited to participate if they experience,
news, events, etc. to share.
B. Newsletter
Since September 2011, Philanthropy-Quebec publishes a
newsletter which carries the main articles published on their
blog. Moreover, the newsletter announces events set up by
Philanthropy-Quebec such as: happy hour networking, the
promotion of podcasts on important subjects such as
fundraising for example. In summary, the newsletter, in the
form of a monthly newspaper, provides in condensed fashion
news from Quebec’s philanthropic sector.
C. Forum
Philanthropy-Quebec has established a forum on its Internet
site to complete the discussion group, for those who do not
know how to use social media but would like to participate in
discussions to share their expertise, to dialogue or ask
questions to experts, volunteers managers of charity
organizations on themes such as fundraising, governance and
transparency, and the Income Tax Act.
D. Wiki
The wiki (a word meaning fast in Hawaiian) of
Philanthropy-Quebec is an element of the Website enabling
visitors to create or modify a set of definitions linked to good
governance, fundraising and fiscal accountability. It involves
team work in the writing things, sometimes technical in nature,
that are linked to the management of charity organizations. In
this way, the community members can add their specific and
complementary knowledge to the formal definition, set out by
the tax authorities, facilitating all the more understanding for
the other members as they use a less legal language.
E. Knowledge base
Knowledge management has been demonstrated to be a
cornerstone for sustained competitive advantages [10]. The
knowledge base of Philanthropy-Quebec gives access to almost
2,000 references, mostly academic or legal, from information
published by the government, major law and accounting firms,
on the decisions of various court bodies regarding of charity
organization taxation. In particular, it enables information on
charity organization taxation responsibilities to be found along
with a variety of academic publications on the subject of
F. Events Calendar
Philanthropy-Québec makes an events calendar available to all
its members. As a result, each organization can add its event(s)
directly on the calendar. This then allows their event to be
made known and improves their visibility.
G. Survey of the Week
The survey of the week is an application put into place to
integrated Web users. The survey questions can be on the
themes of articles, current affairs, the Internet site users’
opinions, etc. Each Monday, a new survey appears on the
homepage. The members can vote and also consult the results
of the survey.
H. Geopositioning
Geopositioning enables very fast location of charity
organizations or foundations by showing a geographic map of
its position. It is possible to search for a specific organization
or even enter a keyword to get a list of those that have
activities in common in more than 16,000 organizations in
I. social networks:
The Philanthropy-Quebec community is very active and
always growing and wishes to help charity organizations by
offering free of charge various services and tools which can be
accessed through the main social networks: LinkedIn,
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
1) LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an example of social media and a virtual
networking tool appealing to professionals unlike Facebook,
which is more for friendly and fun networking. Through
LinkedIn users build their professional network and stay in
contact with their peers working, like themselves, in charity
organizations. The following are among the services offered
by LinkedIn:
Business networking: This group consists of 900 members
including charity organization managers, consultants with
charity organizations as clients, people in Québec who are
interested in philanthropy. So the Philanthropy-Quebec
group is an excellent method for expanding one’s business
network in the world of Québec philanthropy.
Figure 2. Group LinkedIn Home Page
Sharing of knowledge and learning: more than 115
discussions are listed under different themes and are
commented on by the members. An answer is also given to
members by the moderators of Philanthropy-Quebec within
48 hours.
Employee and volunteer recruitment: Through careers
discussions, the members of Philanthropy-Quebec on
LinkedIn can post and consult job offers for free. They can
recruit in a targeted manner, since the group consists only
of people interested by charity and support the group.
Promotion of the organizations: The publicity tab enables
managers to post for free events and charity organization
publicity. These postings are an excellent way to make their
own organization known.
2) Facebook and Twitter
Philanthropy-Quebec uses the social media Facebook and
Twitter to communicate with people. Through these
networking sites, they keep them updated on current
philanthropic events through blog articles, surveys and the
tools on the site. On Facebook, Philanthropy-Quebec informs
its constituency of current philanthropic events and shares
discussions with managers of the charity organizations.The
presence of Philanthropy-Quebec on Twitter links it with
philanthropists and charity organizations worldwide.
3) YouTube
Philanthropy-Quebec is also present on YouTube. Several
videos are presented and soon it will also be possible to find
podcasts focusing on philanthropy professionals with themes
such as fundraising, business volunteers, taxation, etc. The
podcasts deal with the following themes: good governance,
fundraising, best practices in taxation, etc. Several
philanthropic experts took part in creating them.
According to a six-year study carried out on 70
communities of practice of IBM Global Services certain
communities disappear with the passage of time, mainly due to
the following factors [6]:
The community slides into nothingness because the
members leave and there is nobody to take their place. In
the last two years, on the contrary the community grew
The community is redefined following an identity crisis, a
direction change, etc. Charities are expanding in Canada
due to immigration increase, illness of an aging population,
psychological misery of youth ,etc. The need for such a
community will not disappear
The community could not merge with another which has
similar interests to share resources or one with a more
general vocation due to language barrier
Barriers to implementation must also be alleviated from the
inside of the community such as potential unfriendliness to
newcomers or information lack of quality [12]. Supporting
contributors can also be of great help to tackle urgent requests,
supervise local usage and promote the system , as shown in a
famous study of the use in China of the of ShareNet system of
Siemens, [11].
The variety of the tools and publicity methods which
Philanthropy-Quebec uses shows that it is possible to
efficiently assist the members of a community of practice by
using tools that are free to the general public. It is thus possible
to reach and help them to help each other by sharing
knowledge and expertise. The community of practice of
Philanthropy-Quebec is always changing, and its impact is
growing in the world of philanthropy. Its future depends on the
community and its appraisal of the efficiency of the tools made
available. Time will tell if this human investment will continue
its growth.
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Inf Syst Front 13:237–249, 2011.
[2] B. Bonfield, “Should Your Organization Use Social Networking Sites?”, 2008
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communauté de pratique et communauté épistémologiques : le cas de
linux. 2009.
[4] T. Davenport and S. Voelpel, “The rise of knowledge towards attention
management,”Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp.
212-21, 2001.
[5] J. Garcia and M. Dorohovich, “The Truth About Building And
Maintaining Successful Communities Of Practice,” Defense Acquisition
Review Journal; 10: 18-33, 2005.
[6] P. Gongla and C. Rizutto, “Where did that Community Go? -
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January 2006.
[7] D. Leconte, “Développement d’un logiciel de réseau social comme
soutien à une communauté de pratique, “Mémoire de DESS STAF
(Sciences et Technologies de l’apprentissage et de la formation). June
[8] S. Milgram, “The small-World Problem,” in Psychology Today 1 (May
1967), 62-67.
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[14] E. Wenger. Communities of practice: a brief introduction,., 2006
... In addition, a considerable number of donors prefer social networks as a method of communication with non-profit organizations. As the result, many non-profit organizations take an advantage to use SNS as a way to connect with their existing donors, as well as potential donors, although they know that some of their site visitors may not be highly inclined to donate, but they value SNS sites as advertising and marketing tools for nurturing potential donors (Plaisent et al., 2012;Lovejoy and Saxton, 2012;Kim and Lee, 2014). Although many studies (e.g. ...
... Although many studies (e.g. Plaisent et al., 2012;Lovejoy and Saxton, 2012;Kim and Lee, 2014) have been conducted on SNS donation, however, there is limited existing literature on people's attitude and intention to donate via SNSs. For instance, Kim and Lee (2014) examined the attitude toward SNS donation, focusing on how social capital influences attitude by using the theory of reasoned action (TRA); we take a different approach by adapting the TPB. ...
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the differences in the external factors influencing intention to donate via social network sites (SNSs), and the online donation knowledge and awareness effect on the willingness to donate via SNS in the future between Malaysian and South Korean users. Design/methodology/approach In total, 288 samples’ data obtained from online survey using the snowball technique were analyzed through using cross-tabulation with χ² tests and multiple regression analysis. Findings The results show that there is no significant difference between those countries regarding the online donation knowledge and awareness. However, the online donation knowledge and awareness significantly affect the willingness to donate via SNSs for South Korean, but not for Malaysian. As for Malaysian, the results reveal that only SNS features factor does significantly influence the attitude toward online donations. As for South Korean, the charity project and internet technology features factor significantly influence the attitude toward online donations. The attitude toward online donations of both countries influences on their intention to donate via SNS. Research limitations/implications The sample was gathered from certain regions in Malaysia and South Korea, and had slightly unbalanced characteristics (i.e. age), limiting the generalizability to the general population of both countries. Practical implications The findings suggest that non-profit organizations should consider the culture context in planning their future SNS donation program and focus on how to deal with the internet issues (e.g. trust, security), SNS features and charity project. As for Malaysian, promoting the internet and online donation awareness should be the priority before engaging in SNS donation program. Originality/value Whilst research on culture context in donation area is plentiful, the area of SNS donation remains underexplored. This paper offers an in-depth understanding of what influences SNS donation related to the identified culture context.
... Thus, many non-profit organizations take an advantage to use SNS as a way to connect with their existing donors, as well as potential donors. Non-profit organizations know that some of their site visitors may not be highly inclined to donate, but they value SNS sites as advertising and marketing tools for nurturing potential donors (Plaisent et al., 2012;Lovejoy and Saxton, 2012;Kim and Lee, 2014). ...
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