March 10, 2010 — How many times have you sat in a meeting and wished the other participants were more engaged or accountable for their part of the work? How many times has a project you've been working on stalled for reasons nobody can identify? How many times have you been frustrated with conversations that go nowhere because of the "way things are and always will be"?
What if there were a more effective way of working with others that would inspire personal engagement and commitment?
Community Guides, a group of University of Virginia employees who banded together to spread the word about a community-based model of interaction, will offer "Introduction to Working in Community" on March 30 and 31 at the Boar's Head Inn. This 10-hour workshop will train participants in more powerful ways of speaking and interacting with others that will prepare them to start and work effectively in their own or existing communities.
The "community" model for working together more effectively has gradually taken root on Grounds over the past two years. Introduced by James Hilton, U.Va.'s vice president and chief information officer, who brought it from the University of Michigan, Peter Block's model of community as a structure for individual engagement and group interaction provides an egalitarian approach to selecting and pursuing strategic projects that elicits the talents, skills and passion of voluntary participants.
In addition to helping groups work together more successfully, the community model also provides tools for understanding why projects break down and for helping participants engineer breakthroughs and get to successful completion.
"Creating a space for community members to take a stand for a possible future, commit their time and unique gifts, and take ownership of the outcomes is an incredibly effective way to achieve sustainable change in an organization," Hilton said.
The community model has been adopted by the University Library, where several communities now pursue purposes ranging from "greening" the library to working on user interfaces for the online library environment. Another community, ITC's Tech Connect Community, recently hosted a conference on mobile communications at Newcomb Hall. These and other communities are working together voluntarily to get real work done and further their departments' core missions.
In the fall of 2008, a number of employees who found this model essential to their own work lives banded together to begin helping others master the tools of community. Dubbing themselves the Community Guides and drawing membership from several departments at the University, this group is committed to deploying the community model to ensure excellence across the institution.
"Working this way has allowed me to make contributions that I would never have been able to make before, and I know many more people in my organization than I used to. It has really opened up new possibilities for us," said Community Guides member Arlyn Newcomb, a microforms digitizing assistant at the U.Va. Library.