Communities that plan and practice resilience, are communities that thrive when disasters strike. In response to the growing need for enhanced emergency planning, Natural Resources Canada and the Justice Institute of British Columbia, in consultation with project partners and communities, are designing and developing a suite of simple and effective indicators, tools, and training materials for decision makers and practitioners to assess the capability and resiliency of rural health systems and communities across Canada.
One of these tools is a platform called the Virtual Communities of Practice. The intent of the community platform is to develop a web-based resource that planners, emergency managers and researchers can use to access and share knowledge about risk-based planning in Canada.
To support the process of creating this community, we lead a collaboration between these organizations which would seek to;
- Define community goals and user-experience needs
- Develop the initial user-experience wireframes and site map
- Establish technical requirements and platform recommendations
- Develop a community engagement plan
- Create the initial designs for the platform
The combination of these efforts established a strong foundation upon which the organizations collaborating on this project are able to lead the development, launch and engagement of the community.
In our stakeholder engagement process we worked to define the vision for the community which would act as the guide for subsequent stages of the project and engagement with the community. The goal of the project is to:
- Support rural, remote and coastal communities in their risk and resiliency planning
- Create an open-source, online community of practice which enables member engagement
- Bring thought leaders and those in the field together to share insights, stories and best practices
In addition to developing a set of recommended approaches, wire-frames, total cost of ownership analysis and platform recommendations, we worked to establish a set of principals that the organizations would embrace to both initiate, and sustain community engagement. Starting online communities is easy, sustaining them to realize their anticipated benefits is hard work. In our research we discovered that over 50% of all online community initiatives fail within the first 12 months. To ensure the success of this program we defined a top ten list of things that all great online communities need which became the model for the Justice Institute and Natural Resources Canada to use in this project.
Ten Things All Great Online Communities Need
- Clear vision and purpose
- Supportive organizational leadership
- Strong community management
- Empowered leaders within the community, from the community
- Consistent and long-term funding
- Consistent investment in engaging content and features
- Communications and engagement plan
- Strong connection to real-world events / relationship building
- Culture of continuous learning and improvement
- Connect community / social media into all areas of the experience