13
Dec
12

Transforming your community into a collaborative learning environment

On Dec. 4, I had the pleasure of presenting a breakout session on collaborative learning environments during the 2012 Higher Logic Super Forum. Early in the presentation, we discussed the expanding role of content curation and how it can serve as a valuable tool for associations who wish to make meaning of the sometimes excessive information, content and messaging they share with members.

Simply put, content curation comprises three elements:

  • Sorting through vast amounts of content.
  • Organizing it around a specific theme.
  • Presenting it in a meaningful way.

And it’s valuable because:

  • We live in an era of content abundance.
  • Content curation offers high value.
  • Content curation maximizes resources and builds community.

Simply consider the more formal education programs your association offers each year. This likely includes face-to-face programs, digital learning, other meetings and events, and any certification, accreditation or licensure programs. Now multiply each of these programs by three marketing touch points and it’s more messaging than the average association member can reasonably absorb.

And we’ve not yet even considered the informal learning opportunities generated within our industry’s peer networks. So, it quickly becomes evident that a simple content curation strategy could easily help qualify some of this information, further promoting the organization as a valuable resource and content expert. Content treasurers may take many forms. Following is a partial list:

  • Guest bloggers/journalists
  • Slide decks/executive briefs
  • Handouts/resource materials
  • Discussion boards/online communities
  • Podcasts
  • Audio/video recordings
  • Social media feeds/conversations
  • Participant discussions/chat transcripts
  • Question/answer summaries
  • Program outlines/white papers
  • YouTube videos
  • Newsletter/magazine articles
  • Facilitator interviews
  • Case studies

It’s important to note here that true content curation requires some sort of transformation. It’s not about simply posting a slide deck to a website for someone to download. Rather, curating a series of slide decks from a single conference on the same topic might result in an executive brief highlighting only the key points/images from each.

Besides, when’s the last time you downloaded every single slide deck from ASAE’s annual meeting? Okay, it’s possible; I’ll give you that. Let’s take it a step further. When’s the last time you then reviewed, considered and implemented the ideas from each? This, my friends, is nearly impossible. Not to mention, the thought alone is purely overwhelming.

But it’s not enough to simply create content – curated or otherwise. You must then communicate and share this content with others. Otherwise, why do it? Following are just some of the ways you might consider sharing your content with association constituents:

  • Newsletter
  • Magazine
  • Blog
  • Website
  • Online community
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Social media

When utilizing these communication channels to share content, consider these tips:

  • Utilize a consistent learning, education or content brand. This may include a clever name, logo and tagline, as well as certain graphics, colors and fonts.
  • Identify your organization’s available communication channels and draft a comprehensive marketing strategy that utilizes multiple media.
  • Develop an editorial calendar that focuses on a specific subject each month or quarter based on the volume of content you have to share.

Finally, creating a collaborative learning environment requires the engagement of your community. There’s no need for this responsibility to land squarely on the shoulders of staff. Consider your target audience. It’s likely bigger than your current membership. Some examples of your organization’s various constituent groups may include:

  • Subject matter experts
  • Board members
  • Speakers/facilitators
  • Legislators
  • Sponsors
  • Vendors/suppliers
  • Members
  • Staff
  • Volunteer leaders
  • Components

You’ll note here that not every constituent group will be interested in the same content or should be communicated to in exactly the same way. What’s the right combination for each target audience? When you are able to curate the right content and share it with the right constituents via the right communication channels, engagement soars.

Furthermore, utilize these individuals as content experts. Whether this means recruiting them to serve as presenters, facilitators or curators, or simply featuring their blogs and industry resources within your established community, bring them into the fold. Develop file sharing, communication and collaboration tools that makes this process even easier and less cumbersome.

So, my question to you is this: How does your organization curate content? Likewise, how have you transformed your community into a collaborative learning environment (or what strategies are you considering for 2013)?


1 Response to “Transforming your community into a collaborative learning environment”


  1. December 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    A public link to my session recording from the 2012 Higher Logic Super Forum is now available here: http://bit.ly/T3xMR7.


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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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