There was a great metaphor developed by one of the discussion groups at CPsquare open house.
Think of nurturing communities as a crossing a bridge (due to local circumstances the only transport offered was a bike 😉 You can go pretty straight (and follow something like “10 tips for facilitating communities of practice”) and cross the bridge. However, in most cases it’s not that simple: many people fall from the bridge and discover deep waters of underlying theories and practices under it.
[I hope to find a photo and post it here. This one gives some impression.]
Some people just swim on a surface, others go diving to discover the treasures of depth. Divers are different as well: some are supported by a team on the surface, stay in depth longer, but explore only limited part of the bottom; others take risks of diving by themselves to get more flexibility.
Some people just want to cross the bridge as fast as possible and don’t want to go diving into theories. Others get addicted to diving and stay underwater with fading memories of the bridge. Others get out of the water, but forget to take of all their diving gear, surprising other bicyclists on the bridge with wetsuits and masks.
This metaphor provokes many questions:
Is it necessary to dive into deep waters of theories to cross the bridge? Some just want to get to another side faster. Are people prepared for diving? Do they need crash course or long training in a swimming pool to get ready for the surprises of the depth?
Which diving style to choose? Are there any “fitness” conditions to go diving?
How to make diving fun? Do you need an experienced guide to show you around?
What do you if you get addicted to diving?
How to remember to take you wetsuit off if you decide to go back on the bridge? How to explain others on the bridge what you have seen in the depth? How to share experiences of deep waters with those who can not even think of swimming?
Why do we have to stick to cycling on the bridge after all? One can use boat or fly over the river… Of course, the bridge is persistent; it embodies expertise of earlier generations to make crossing easier to newcomers. It also fast. However, the bridge keeps distance from the water, so those who fall down from their bicycles can get surprising cold showers. May be we should think of a ferry: a bit slower, but at least the waters do not get out of sight 🙂
Of course, I find the metaphor particularly appealing as it speaks diving language 🙂 Thinking where I would position myself on the picture… I guess I will be a diver establishing a ferry business. My ferry would be fast enough to make a good alternative to cycling on the bridge. I’ll make sure that it has glass bottom, so those on board can see the beauty and depth of waters under the bridge. I’ll provide some safety training, so those falling in the water will not be shocked, and basic introduction to diving, so those interested get a starting point. I’ll do something “not super fast, but with a lot of fun on board” and make sure “deep water education” activities are well embedded into the river-crossing experience.
I guess I’ll also arrange for a helicopter flights across the river, so people (especially addicted divers who rarely get out of the water) can appreciate the surroundings and see that the river if only part of the landscape 😉
Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/06/14.html#a1242; comments are here.