Informal Community Boundary Spanners Build Knowledge Bridges to the World at Large

By | June 1, 2022

Now that I know what I am looking for, after the two rounds of data analysis focusing on the links between the training experience and the real world unassisted experience of the facilitators, and the kinds of beneficial outcomes experienced by the participants, some effects of which were explicated by participants reflecting more than a year later on their participation experience, I can see the informal role of socio-cognitive boundary spanners that certain well-networked community members play in their extensive social networks.

Here is an article from today’s translated into English news:

It struck me forcibly, especially after hearing the thoughts of local community members in rural Finland last week, that this novel and important and relevant information was existentially being gatekept by organizing a webinar. Not all immigrant workers might feel confident using information and communication technologies (ICTs) required to access a webinar in three different European languages, but not French. Only as an example of the kinds of inadvertent socio-cognitive barriers that exist even within well integrated communities. If one arrived as an adult with foreign background basic education, then one may not have learnt all the nuances of group interactions that are assumed by adults who have all been socialized within the same systemic design (the pre-school to University entrance education of 8, 9, or 12 years).

This is the sort of information that requires sensemaking in the group together with someone who can find out more regarding the group’s particular context and interests and re-interpret that back to the group, facilitating the discussion with problem definition activities. What my dissertation work is doing is problematizing the activities required of this “someone” into a rapid enskillment program offered to volunteers from the communities, and providing a practical learning experience.

However, I recalled in time that such immigrant worker communities would already have their spokespeople and ‘boundary spanners’ who may be a degree more educated, and had exposure to modern technological lifestyles. They would join te webinar, on behalf of the groups waiting for them to explain it all to them in their own contextual vernacular. This is the very definition of the two step flow of information that Tushman referred to as boundary spanning activities that facilitate the innovation process, for ex. between R&D labs and the outside world (Tushman, 1977). Can it operationalized through prototyping and testing?

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