How many people actually participate in online communities of practice?

This follows the previous post about why social media and online communities of practice (OCoP) (with some notable exceptions) aren’t used more widely in public services. I thought it was worth having a look to see if I could get hold of some statistics to back this up.

The short answer to the question is, I still don’t know.  It’s not through a lack of trying to find out, believe me, I spent 2 hours trawling the internet on a Saturday morning.  I’ve learnt lots of new things, but I still couldn’t find with much confidence any data telling me how many public servants use OCoPs, particularly in Wales. If anyone has any data I’d be very interested to see it.

The best I could manage was some information from the Social by Social website reporting on activity within the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) Communities of Practice.  As far as I could work out these are 2009 figures and: over 800 communities had been created; there were around 20,000 registered users; they estimated that 16% of users are ‘active’ (didn’t say what ‘active’ means); 65,000 documents are downloaded annually and the pages have over 30,000 visits a month.

With over 2 million people working in local government this gives an overall participation rate of about 1%. The 16% ‘active’ rate looks good. The generally held view is that for most online communities the lurkers (non active people, those who don’t contribute) account for about 90%. This graphic from the Rapid E-Learning blog puts the active
participation figure at about 5%.

What is interesting though is when you compare the IDeA OCoP participation rate with
the ‘outside world’ participation in online communities.  This article in the Telegraph reports over 30 million Facebook users in the UK, over 50% of the population. These people are from a wide demographic, it’s not just kids, and apparently women between 40 and 50 are huge users. When you take into account all of the other online communities like LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace etc, there is massive participation in online communities by the general population and it’s predicted to increase.

The question that’s still troubling me is, for public servants why is participation
within the work context relatively so low, particularly when you compare it to what happens outside of work?

So,wht’s the PONT?

  1. Participation in workplace OCoPs by public servants is very low compared to general population participation. Not just my opinion, I’ve got some (limited) numbers.
  2. Ability to work the technology shouldn’t be a barrier (in my view). If you can handle Facebook, other OCoP platforms should be within your grasp (or is there something I’m missing here?).
  3. Why are the numbers on workplace participation in OCoPs so difficult to get hold of? (would love hear from you if you have got access to this information).

Picture source:

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

4 Responses

  1. Tom Kuhlmann

    Just to clarify, my 95% to 5% is just a figure to show the disparity. The main point is that most people aren’t active in the community when it comes to practice. They are however active when it comes to using the community’s resources (at least in my case).

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