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Diplomacy in Action

Communities@State Questionnaire


Bureau of Information Resource Management
May 26, 2009

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A community requires a significant commitment of time and resources so it is important to clarify what you want to achieve, how you plan to run the community and how you plan to win and sustain support. This questionnaire will help you to shape and guide your plans, and it will give the Office of eDiplomacy input on setting up and supporting your community.

Starting a community is an experiment. Communities evolve to meet new circumstances. Nevertheless, it is important to be as specific as possible in answering the following “start-up” questions. Your chances for success are much better if you know who you want to reach, what you want to do for them (and vice versa), how you will measure success, and how you and colleagues will manage the effort.

Experience also shows that it is important to secure executive buy-in for your effort early. Your supervisors need to understand and support your efforts and accept the goals of improved information-sharing. If not, both you and eDiplomacy will waste time and resources setting up a community that cannot be launched or sustained.

Section One (“Issues for Planning Your Community”) below briefly discusses important considerations about the community. Section Two contains the Questionnaire. Please type your responses directly into the Questionnaire and return it to eDiplomacy’s Knowledge Management Action Team.

If you need further information about the questionnaire or the Communities @ State initiative, please e-mail the KM Action Team.

Issues for Planning Your Community

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Strategic Issues

GOALS: What do you want your community to achieve? Please be specific. For example, instead of "Sharing information," you might put "To provide a forum for diplomatic reporting officers to share solutions to problems." If there are multiple purposes, please list all of them. The greater the sense that your community is making a difference to its participants and having an impact in the organization, the greater the chances for success (and the more rewarding it will be for all who participate). The following suggestions are illustrative:

  • Publish information
  • Generate discussions about issues or events
  • Provide a place for colleagues to make and answer requests for help
  • Develop “best practice” solutions
  • Develop a network of interested and knowledgeable people

DURATION: How long will your community last? Will it run for a fixed period and then be retired and archived; run for a trial period and then be extended if successful; or run indefinitely? If the community will last longer than your current assignment, how will you ensure continuity of effort when you move on?

PARTICIPANTS: Who should participate in the community? You should try to identify a primary group whom you wish to participate actively in the community by providing content and commentary. Then think of additional target audiences. The primary participants and additional audiences may be in State, other agencies, or both. The answers to these questions will affect your outreach activities and may determine which of several networks should host your community.

EXCLUSIONS: Is there anyone you do not want to participate? Communities are essentially open forums. Communities in Communities @ State will be accessible at a minimum to Department of State personnel and most employees in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Most communities will also be available to the U.S. Government (USG) interagency community on unclassified or classified government networks. The community will not be accessible to the general public unless it is specifically set up for participation by non-USG members (a capability that is not yet available), If you want to restrict access to your discussions, other technologies may better fit your needs.

MARKETING: How will you publicize your community? Some suggestions: advertising on listservs; posting links on web sites you control or asking for links on other sites; including the community’s address in your office’s e-mail signatures; including the address in official messages you send; e-mailing people privately; Department of State internal Notices. (eDiplomacy will make a sustained effort to promote communities in general, but you will have to promote your community individually.)

DEFINING SUCCESS: How will you know you’re succeeding? The measures below are illustrative. You should develop relevant, clearly defined, specific and measurable goals for your specific community.

  • Grow to XX visits per month by the end of six months.
  • Regularly engage at least XX people from key audiences/organizations in discussion groups by the end of six months.
  • Provide expert response to all requests for help within 24 hours.
  • Based on queries and discussions, propose three new “best practices” every year.
  • Use comments and discussions to develop ideas for at least one in-depth report or analysis each quarter.
  • Survey community members once a year.
  • Candidates for assignments cite participation in/management of the community as a factor in their bidding.

Content Issues

NAME: What do you want to call your community? You can use a formal name or something catchy to help people remember. The KM Action Team will review the suggested name to ensure that it appropriately projects the scope and purpose of the community, facilitates design and operation of the community site, and is compatible with other initiatives and programs.

OTHER RESOURCES: What links do you want to display on the sidebar? These are static links that will not change without changing the template. They should be to sites and/or documents that are of enduring importance.

LOGO: Do you wish to include a community logo or other graphics? We encourage displaying a logo or other distinctive graphic at the top of the community site, and using photos, charts and other graphics to tell your story. However, the logo or graphics must be reasonable in size. Some diplomatic posts have limited network capabilities, and the "heavier" the pages are with graphics, the harder it is for those posts to look at your page.

ORGANIZING CONTENT: What topics will you use to organize your content? The community’s items are divided into topics. Please list the topics you want to start with (you can always add more). Five to ten topics are fine for most communities.

Management Issues

Most communities use two basic categories of participants. Administrators can add or delete "entries" and comments and modify the community homepage; they require a password to log in. Readers can comment on articles – they do not need to log in to leave a comment – but otherwise they cannot alter the community page.

If useful, you can add two other categories of participants. Authors can log in and contribute an entry but otherwise cannot modify the community site. Guests may provide an entry without logging in. The choices you make on these categories will depend on the degree of access you are willing to grant others to encourage content and participation in your community. As administrator, you always retain ultimate control over and responsibility for your site.

WHO WILL RUN IT? Who is the primary community administrator? How much time are you willing to spend per week administering the community?

Who is/are the secondary community administrator(s)? Each community should have at least one alternate administrator. We encourage you to have more than one, to share the workload of managing the community, to ensure that Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) requirements for community site supervision are met, and to increase participation. However, please name only those people who will actually manage the community. (Under the terms of the web log software license, sharing usernames is prohibited. Please note that people who leave comments on the community are not considered users.)

MANAGING CONTENT: How often do you plan to post new content? Generally, it is better to post your content as short items more frequently, rather than long or many items less frequently. If you are only able to post content periodically, this should be explained on the community site.

MANAGING EXCHANGES: How do you plan to manage comments, questions and discussions? A major distinction between a blog-based community and a regular website is the blog-based community’s capability to serve as a forum for comments, questions, and threaded discussions. This provides an important opportunity and imposes a responsibility. As a community administrator, how will you encourage people to participate actively? You should plan to intervene actively to initiate a discussion or draw it in fruitful directions, and to answer questions promptly. In addition, the Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual (specifically, 5 FAM 777) requires the community administrator to check the community site at least once every business day.

EXECUTIVE SUPPORT: How do you plan to achieve and show your supervisors’ support? You will need your leaders’ support for your work on and goals for the community. Before you and eDiplomacy commit time and resources to fully develop the community site, you should ensure that your supervisors are comfortable with the time you will spend on it, the overall goals, and the practical aspects of a community that is open to a potentially large and general Department or interagency audience.

The Questionnaire

Strategic Issues

1. GOALS: What do you want your community to achieve?

2. DURATION: How long will your community last? How will you ensure continuity of effort if/when you change assignments?

3. PARTICIPANTS: Who are the primary community participants and, if appropriate, additional audiences you want to engage in the community?

4. NETWORK: Considering your intended audience, choose one of the three networks on which to host your community:

__ State’s intranet.

__ An interagency unclassified network.

__ An interagency classified network.


5. EXCLUSIONS: Unless specifically designated for public access, your community will be internal to State or the USG. Is there anyone in State or other USG agencies whom you do not want to participate?

6. MARKETING: How will you publicize your community?

7. DEFINING SUCCESS: How will you measure success?

8. LAUNCH DATE: When do you want to announce your community to your audience?

Content Issues

9. NAME: What do you want to call your community?

10. OTHER RESOURCES: What links do you want to display on the sidebar?

11. LOGO: Do you have an existing logo or graphic that you wish to use on your community site? (If not, the KM Action Team will work with you to make one.)

12. ORGANIZING CONTENT: What topics will you use to organize your content?

Management Issues

13. WHO WILL RUN THE COMMUNITY?

  • Who is the primary community administrator and how much time are you willing to spend per week administering the community?
  • Who is/are the secondary community administrator(s) [people who will actually contribute entries and manage the community]?

14. MANAGING CONTENT: How often do you plan to post new content?

15. MANAGING EXCHANGES: How do you plan to manage comments, questions and discussions?

16. EXECUTIVE SUPPORT: Does your supervisor support this initiative?

Site Features

Although eDiplomacy will work with you to personalize your community site, we have limited resources to support this popular program. We use standard layout templates and are unable to accommodate major deviations from the design of these templates. Within the standard design templates are some mandatory features. These are:

  • Search: A search box in the top right corner of the site that allows your readers to search all site entries by keyword.
  • RSS Syndicate: One link in the sidebar for RSS that allows readers to receive your new entries as news feeds.
  • Subscriptions: A box on the sidebar that allows readers to add their email address in order to receive automatic email notifications when new entries are posted to the site. Readers manage their own subscription; they can add or remove themselves from the list at any time.

We also have several other optional features. Please indicate which of the following features you wish to add to your community:

__ Guest entries: Allow readers to post a new entry without logging in. By adding this feature, you relinquish some immediate control over addition of content to your site although you retain ultimate authority to delete material. The benefit of this feature is that it enables others to participate more fully in the community by initiating content and discussions, without adding to the task of administering passwords. 

__ Upcoming Events: Show an “Upcoming Events” subsection in a sidebar that highlights events that are important to your community.

__ Tagline: Explain the community’s purpose in a pithy statement that appears on each page, just below the site name and logo. If you want a tagline, please include it here: 

__ “About this site” page: A permanent link to an entry which describes your site.
-OR-
__ Welcome message: A short message (photograph optional) to appear on the main page only. A good technique to increase and demonstrate executive buy-in to the community is to get your leader – the Ambassador or Deputy Chief of Mission at your post, or the Assistant Secretary or relevant Deputy Assistant Secretary if you are assigned to Washington – to provide a welcome message.

__ Newsfeeds: Add headlines to your site with RSS feeds. Please indicate which feeds you would like, if any:

__ Logo - help “brand” your office or initiative by including your logo at the top of each page. You will need to provide the KM Action Team with a .JPG or .GIF file of your logo.

__ Design details – further your branding by requesting particular colors or fonts for your site. Please indicate here:

__ Publicity - increase your audience with a link to your site on various State resources, including State’s central wiki (Diplopedia), the Department intranet home page, and the Communities @ State home page.



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