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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Communities@State Guidelines


Bureau of Information Resource Management
May 26, 2009

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Introduction

The Communities @ State initiative has three goals:

  1. Promote knowledge sharing within the Department;
  2. Share information with other U.S. Government agencies; and
  3. Promote connections and conversation among personnel with shared professional needs and interests.

Communities @ State provides tools and advice for self-forming, self-managing communities to work on the State Department’s intranet or interagency networks (both unclassified and classified).


Office of eDiplomacy Responsibilities

The Office of eDiplomacy will:

  1. Create the initial layout in collaboration with the web log administrator(s);
  2. Train community administrators in the use of the web log software, as well as best practices for running the community;
  3. Maintain and troubleshoot the web log on a technical level;
  4. Assist the administrators as needed.


Community Administrator Responsibilities

Day-to-day Community participants generally fall into one of two categories: administrators and readers. Administrators are in charge of the online community. Readers are anyone who visits the community site, leaves comments or e-mails an item to an administrator to publish in the community. Some communities add a third category: authors. Authors may add an entry but otherwise cannot manage the community site. Community administrators are responsible for:

  1. Content on the community site;
  2. Promotion/communications;
  3. Determining/creating new topic areas;
  4. Setting and achieving goals and performance measures;
  5. Recruiting new participants.

As an administrator, you will need to take steps to establish and grow the community in accordance with the goals spelled out in your planning questionnaire.

Online community sites are considered informative, not authoritative. If you intend to publish definitive guidance on subject areas under your authority, you should clearly state that on the community site, and determine in advance how to manage that.

Experience with organizational communities and web logs indicates that people participate responsibly and constructively. Nevertheless, you must be vigilant about content and prepared to modify or remove any slanderous, obscene, incorrect, or inappropriate material or commentary (administrators have this capability.) eDiplomacy cannot monitor the content of the community sites.

Committing to excellence

Here are some tips for making your community successful based on experience in State and elsewhere:

Contribute often. Generally, it is better to post your content as short items more frequently, rather than long items less frequently. Give people a reason to come back, and they will come back.

Avoid the magisterial style. If you want to invite people into a conversation, use a more conversational tone. A good community will have an atmosphere of respectful discussion.

Respond to your audience. From the comments you receive, you will get a sense for why your audience visits your community. This will give you ideas for how to proceed in the future.

Grow the community. You don't have to do it all at once. Communities evolve. What begins as a discussion forum (the usual starting point) might turn into a powerhouse of proposals and advocacy for new practices. Your community members will ask themselves, "What do I get out of this?" As community leader, you too need to ask that. Set realistic, near-term goals and performance measures; keep in mind the potential directions that the community could go; encourage people to use and contribute to the community; and identify ways that the community and the Department can benefit from that evolution.



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