How we improved engagement at our community of practice meet-ups

In May last year, the delivery managers (DM) decided to make some changes to our community of practice meet-ups. We think the changes have been really positive for morale and engagement.   

Our community of practice (COP) was created in 2016, back in the early days of Co-op Digital. The community included delivery managers working across the portfolio and we would meet once a week to support each other with challenges, to learn, and to share ideas and ways of working.  

Fundamentally, this hasn’t changed but we’ve recognised that it is hard to keep up momentum and – as you’d expect – engagement has fluctuated over the years. In May we acknowledged the importance of belonging to a community – especially when remote working can be isolating. We wanted to create a more consistent level of enthusiasm for our meet-ups.   

Here we are at our Christmas murder mystery party on Teams

This post is about the changes we’ve made that have worked for us. We’re sharing them in the hope it helps others in a similar position.   

Sharing the responsibility 

Honest communication within our community helped us figure out what we needed to change. As a result of our quick research, we realised we needed to share the responsibility of choosing topics, planning, preparing and running our community of practice meet-ups. Until recently, principals DMs or the Head of Delivery Cara B did all this.  

We split into groups of 3 or 4 people and we committed to organising 4 sessions per group.  

Since we started self-organising like this, we’ve had meet-ups that focus on topics like wellbeing, failure as well as empathy and inclusivity and engagement has been really good. Here’s why we think that is. 

  1. Adrenaline not pressure for organisers   

Each group shares the tasks of planning and organising the sessions and are invested in their subjects, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Together they get to choose topics and present it in a way they feel is relevant. And the facilitation is shared too meaning no one feels the pressure of running the whole thing. There’s a determination to do a good job and engage everyone (to the point of people getting a bit competitive, which is nice). Plus, DMs that don’t normally work together get a chance to get to know each other too. 

2. High quality over high quantity of sessions 

With more people sharing the responsibility, the quality of the sessions is higher because no single person is feeling fatigued with the pressure of filling an hour-long slot. Our sessions are more diverse in topic now too – more organisers means more points of view, a wider range of interests and also a bigger range of concerns. This can never not be a good thing.  

3. Interest not indifference for attendees 

Our research said that sometimes the meet-ups felt like a chore – pretty brutal. But since we started to self-organise, that hasn’t felt like the case. We’re a big community too (there are 20 of us) so sessions give us a chance to introduce ourselves over an hour, in a way that feels more natural. Each Monday afternoon, there’s always a feeling of turning up to support our friends too. 

All 3 of these subheads feed into each other: interesting, relevant content means enthusiastic attendees who are inspired to make their sessions interesting and relevant when it’s their turn to organise. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle and we don’t want it to stop. 

Strengthening ideas of ‘community’ 

Our community of practice feels stronger since we started to share responsibility for meet-ups. This of course is a very co-operative way of running things – we all own a piece of it. 

Kim Morley, Sol Byambadorj and Rachael Shah

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