From Social Networks to Virtual Communities of Practice. Beyond e-Inclusion through Digital Literacy (II): the Case of the Catalan e-Justice Community

(Continuation from: From Social Networks to Virtual Communities of Practice. Beyond e-Inclusion through Digital Literacy (I): the Case of the Crafting Community)

In a seminar on Tuesday 21st October 2008 — ICTs, development and e-government 2.0: empowering the citizenry — I extended the case of the crafting community and compared it to several civil society actions closely related to e-government, mainly projects led by, but also others about political campaigning, or Health and Education.

Some of those examples came from existing communities, or ended up in the creation or communities that built around interests in common.

The Case of the Catalan e-Justice Community

Compartim [let’s share] is a grassroots-born initiative now led by the Justice Department of the Government of Catalonia (the Spanish region whose capital is Barcelona). It’s aim is to share knowledge, by promoting learning by practice sharing. It’s original promoters and target — now spread to the whole Department — were public servants working in the Justice system in Catalonia (professionals from different specialized branches directly dealing with the public: psychologists, lawyers, criminologists, mediators, trainers…) that needed and wanted to share questions and doubts, procedures, solutions… everything that could make their works easier and to provide a better service to the citizen.

The already existing (explicit, though informally though the hierarchies) community, went online and created a blog to keep the community informed, built several communities of practice at the Justice Portal where interaction would take place (the portal includes also “official” blogs closely related to the activity on the portal) and engaged in a richest exchange of knowledge which, at the moment, has produced several main outcomes:

  • an increase in the flow of information and knowledge within the Justice Department
  • a higher implication of the community members, both in quality (more implication) and in quantity (more people involved)
  • impact on the “real” lives and works of the community members
  • reaching consensus on key issues at the practical level (no hierarchies involved, no power stresses implied)
  • articulation of the real community, the one that exists “offline”

After the grassroots stage, now the Compartim Programme has been institutionalized — in a perfect shift from a push to pull strategy — and communities of practice are but a part of the institution’s strategic plan and training plan.

e-Justice: opening the Administration to the citizen

But, does the community of the Justice system ends with the public servants? Should it include the citizens?

Hence, the Compartim Programme goes open and is inviting the whole community and citizenry to debate about knowledge management in the framework of the Catalan Justice system in their III Jornada del programa Compartim [III Compartim Open Conference]. As in the case of the crafting community, what is important is the real community, made up of real people with real life goals. The Internet is enhancing the debate by:

The goal of the Conference is to reflect about the community itself with two workshops:

  1. Ideas to improve communities of practice.
  2. Using Internet tools for knowledge management.

The conference will take place on 4th December 2008, which means that the online preparation of the event will take place during the preceding 10 weeks of the meeting.

It is my opinion that this is a perfect public-private partnership to improve the Justice system specifically and e-Government and e-Administration in general. The difference being that the private counterpart is not, as usual, a firm, but each and every citizen acting in their own interest.

More information about the programme and the event (in Spanish or Catalan)