Forming Storming Norming Performing

Tuesday was the Columbus Social Media Cafe at OCLC in Dublin. This growing collaboration among WOSU, COSI, Internet bloggers, tech folks, friends, neighbors and citizens is becoming a group headed for good things for Columbus. My colleagues in the group are doing a good job of summarizing the upcoming work of the group, and its filtration into events like ComFest, PodCamp Ohio, Startup Weekend, etc. I would like to briefly offer observations of the group’s dynamic and what I see as its potential.

I’m going to drag out that master’s degree in communication and dust off a group dynamic called Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The theory is that these are the stages of a group coming together. I think the first couple of CSMC meet-ups were the stage of Forming — gaining an identity and long -term buy-in from key players. There was a brief storming, maybe, at about the time I entered the group. That meet-up was more contentious, had low attendance, and seemed to operate as a struggle to answer, “What are we doing here?” Storming is good, by the way, according to the theory. It’s a way for the group to shake itself into place, so to speak.

Norming — the process of developing group rules and ways of doing things — is next. It’s followed by performing, an easy-to-understand concept. I think that the CSMC is in both of these stages, mostly norming. We’re talking names, maybe a mission, branding. We’ve identified a way to talk collectively online through a Google Group. We’re developing a group calendar.

I see glimpses of performing. Andrew‘s work with the ComFest Folks is great! This will result in (hopefully) CSMC members providing training onsite at the event, as well as involvement in the community that will surely net more participation and create more networks. Our interest in Startup Weekend and PodCamp will most likely increase the group’s effectiveness and develop a wider circle.

I also believe that the participation of very progressive and talented thinkers from OCLC, from the site Cofollow.com is adding new life and creating new energy within the CSMC.

As I am watching this coalescence occur, I have just a couple of thoughts to consider:

1. Our original question contained the thought of “making Columbus better”. I think this is key to the role of the group and I hope we continue to keep it front-and-center, and avoid becoming a group that simply exists to engage in cool digital stuff. (I don’t think we’re doing that now at all; I only foresee it as a potential pitfall).

2. I believe that inherent in making Columbus better is making ourselves better — each constituent, each organization, each shareholder in the group. An example of this is the volunteerism of a couple of the group’s members, who answered phones during WOSU’s recent pledge drive. Each time our group, or its individual members, tries to help improve another member’s situation, the group as a whole benefits, as does the community.

That said, I have one idea to share and welcome discussion about: As we develop CSMC meetings in various neighborhoods around Columbus, can we possibly add a component of contributing to that neighborhood in some way. Could we, for example, commit to offering a workshop on internet homework help or photo editing and sharing if we met in the Franklinton library branch (even if we offer the workshop on a different day than our meeting)? Might we help the director of an agency create a blog if we met in that agency’s facilities? These are just ideas off the top of my head and I’m positive the group would come up with better ones. I am hoping, however, that the idea of improving any place, organization or neighborhood we touch is what really stands out.

I welcome any and all discussion. My disclaimer: the ideas offered here are my own, and don’t represent the CSMC, WOSU or any other entity. Just little old me!

Here is a link for the Forming Storming Norming Performing theory

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Columbus Social Media Cafe

As a staff member of WOSU, I attended the Columbus Social Media Cafe last night. Attendance was low — I’ll blame that on the weather.

I’m new to the CSMC and this was my first meet-up with the Cafe as a whole. I’ve participated in a couple of planning meetings at WOSU/COSI. Following are my random observations about last night’s meet-up:

  • Though attendance was low, I’ll agree with “Open Space Rules” that the people who showed up were the right people. I heard a diverse number of opinions about where this project is going/should go. I appreciated Walker‘s take on the project, which really propelled us in a new direction.
  • I am not sure that the “non-WOSU” attendees got a clear message that the WOSU/COSI staff really wants this to be an effort that is guided by the cafe as a whole, not a specific agenda that WOSU wants to push. The framework for a webspace WOSU presented was an idea borne out of planning meetings, but I don’t think we/WOSU are extremely invested in it. I hope that was clear, but I fear it wasn’t.
  • I hope that some of the participants in the cafe start coming to planning meetings with WOSU/COSI staff. That would be a great addition.
  • I took away two main themes from the event: 1. The Columbus Social Media Cafe could become a way for bloggers and others engaging in social media to improve and expand what they do. This can happen both online and with face-to-face instruction. The Cafe could very well become the source for bloggers to find someone with more experience to help them, share tools, offer helpful information to others, and support each others’ blogging efforts. I think this is right in line with the missions of both WOSU and COSI. 2. The Cafe can also become a place to showcase the talented content that is “out there” on the internet by aggregating it together under the umbrella of content produced locally. This is also right in line with the missions of WOSU/COSI.
  • Voices of Columbus — what a great name for this effort. I agree that Columbus Social Media Cafe is cumbersome.
  • I wonder how this will come together. I hope that those who attended will start blogging about what they took away from the event. I also hope that we can garner more participation from other area bloggers/constituents.
  • I would like to see more technical-types become part of this effort. I invited Ben Bleikamp to attend, but haven’t heard from him. I’ll redouble my efforts with him.
  • Finally, I admit to a lot of “blog envy” as I read more local blogs and meet the bloggers in person. I’m definitely not on their level!