Encouraging participation in an intra-organizational online idea community: A case study of a Swedish municipality
Online communities have flourished in organizations in recent years, but large numbers of them fail. A deeper understanding of how participation can be promoted in online idea communities (OIC) is essential, because the most common reason of failure is low levels of participation. In this paper, we investigated how participation could be encouraged in an intra–organizational OIC. Our case organization was Sollentuna municipality in Sweden. They decided to introduce an OIC to collect ideas from staff as input when developing the municipality’s forthcoming IT strategy. We used the theory of online identity–based communities (Ren, et al., 2007) as a lens and a mixed research method comprising interviews and an analysis of the content of the OIC. While this theoretical perspective certainly has merits on its own, the study topic at hand made it necessary to complement the theory with more specific design principles that take the unique characteristics of intra–organiztional OIC into account. These included that managers were expected by staff to be core members of the community, frequent and complementing promotion activities were necessary in order for the OIC to be used, very low entry barriers were expected, and the employees expected the discussion to be focused, both in terms of content and time. The design principles need to be tested and further developed, by conducting studies on other OIC.
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