Community Knowledge Management

Communities need specific Knowledge Management solutions. Here's why

Community Knowledge Management
Community Knowledge Management is direly missing in the world

In this article, I want to discuss Community Knowledge Management, something that not enough people consider.

Community Knowledge

At the core of every community, there are shared beliefs, ideas and knowledge. Some of the knowledge is tribal, some is formal, some is well documented, some needs to be acquired through direct experience (e.g., crafts of all sorts), etc.

All communities need to share data, information, knowledge, and ideas. And it takes a lot of effort for a community to acquire, maintain and share knowledge. Most of the knowledge is acquired and maintained by subject matter experts (SMEs). Luckily, some of those are willing to share what they know. Some document their work using various means (e.g., writing, recording, using pictures, schemas, etc). Some become teachers, mentors or coachs. Some organize seminars, etc. There are countless ways to share knowledge and expertise.

For newcomers, community knowledge is invaluable, as it enables them to dive into the subject, discover the main concepts, how they relate, etc. Community knowledge includes the corpus of accumulated knowledge in all shapes and forms (e.g., articles, books, videos, podcasts, ...). It is a graph of interconnected pieces of information, with a high signal-to-noise ratio. But it goes further than that. Community knowledge is also very people-centric. When someone joins a new community, it is crucial to be able to find out who the experts are. This is often communicated informally, but could certainly be improved through the use of community-vetted directories. Whenever I dive into a new topic, my first goal is to identify the key people, explore their work and find out what they are currently working on. This has a lot of value for learning new things and discovering the state of the art.

Community Knowledge Management

Community knowledge is rarely considered and approached in a systematic/structured way. It is of course very difficult to do it on a global scale, as there are many disjoint sub-communities and groups working on the same topics without necessarily collaborating together. There is thus clearly room for improvement. The good news is that we can certainly improve the status quo, one sub-community at a time!

No matter the means being used, it is critical for communities to manage their knowledge in the best possible way in order to maintain, evolve, and share it. Community knowledge management requires enough maturity. Without that maturity, knowledge is not managed, it is merely in the heads of the enlightened and exchanged informally. When a community is mature enough, it recognizes the need to organize itself to capture the important knowledge, organize and structure it, etc. That's where Community Knowledge Management (CKM) comes into the picture. Community Knowledge Management is the specific use of Knowledge Management (KM) approaches, techniques and tools to store, organize, maintain and share knowledge and ideas in a community.

As a knowledge management enthusiast and as a member/"leader" of various communities, I have a feeling that Community Knowledge Management is still in its infancy. I keep observing the same pattern. People crave knowledge. They want to share ideas, lessons learned, best practices, opinions, tools, etc. But they simply don't know how to approach that. Most people don't care enough to look for solutions, let alone build those. But the need is always present in some shape or form. In practice, people simply rely on conversations as a means to share their knowledge. That's why the same conversations and questions keep popping up. That's why "Frequently Asked Questions" posts get pinned. That's why "What you need to know about X" posts appear. While very valuable, those simply point out the knowledge management issues that communities face.

Communities need proper knowledge management solutions, just like we all do. And by this, I mean all communities, whether for fun, not for profit or for profit. Communities of practices, work groups, teams, whole organizations, associations, etc. All of those, and more!

When we think about human knowledge, the current go-to place is Wikipedia. It is a wonderful example of community knowledge management solution for humanity. Wikipedia regroups an enormous amount of knowledge, maintained and shared by passionate people with the rest of humanity. The fact is that all communities need that, and much more.

It all starts with the realization that it is actually a need. But then actual solutions are required. Not only to regroup and share knowledge about specific topics but also to capture and share knowledge about the key people in the community, the content creators, the authors, the experts, the best learning materials, the latest news, interesting ideas, processes, jobs, etc.

The future of Community Knowledge Management

As I'm writing this, I have to say that I don't know many actual solutions for Community Knowledge Management needs. The community-centric solutions on the market mainly focus on conversations, and not on actual knowledge management. Wikis and notion-like systems provide a way to store textual knowledge, but don't allow easily sharing files, linking ideas together, or creating structured knowledge bases. People like me who actually care about knowledge management and community knowledge management probably come to the same conclusion: currently, the only way is for each community and sub-community to invent its own system by stitching together features of different products. For instance, Slack for conversations, a wiki for structured documentation, a Dropbox-like solution for file sharing, another solution for pictures, yet another for videos, another for job boards, etc. Alternatively, they can also build their own solutions, but very few actually go through the hassle.

As it stands, it is quite overwhelming, and most communities simply don't manage their knowledge in an organized way. And those who do try, end up with very different solutions. When we consider sub-communities, you can imagine how hard it can be to even compare knowledge accumulated by one versus another. Let alone try to link or regroup knowledge bases. I find this particularly sad for humanity, but I am convinced that actual solutions are within reach. In recent years, AI-assisted solutions and PKM tools have evolved a lot. I believe that the next generation of knowledge management tools will slowly enable communities to go further than mere conversations. Conversations will remain crucial of course, but actual community knowledge management will enable communities of all shapes and sizes to gain a lot of maturity, better accumulate/organize/structure/share and disseminate their knowledge.

Moreover, I also believe that collaborative/social content curation will certainly play a big role in the future of communities.


In this article, I've introduced and discussed the ideas behind Community Knowledge Management (CKM). I've argued that all communities actually need knowledge management solutions, whether they realize it or not. I've also argued that the existing solutions focus on a tiny part of what communities actually need to capture, organize, structure and share/disseminate or even monetize their knowledge. Solutions covering those needs will pave the way toward a better future, and I can't wait to see those appear on the market!