I just came across a group called the Energy Collective. I was interested in this community because they use an online platform to discuss complex issues. Second, the topics are more niche and specialised than ‘web 2.0′ or ‘social media’ as many existing communities already do. This is how the describe themselves:
Welcome to The Energy Collective, a moderated online community for people who want to understand and discuss how energy choices, technology and markets are shaping the quest for a secure and sustainable future. Our featured bloggers are a cross section of respected scientists, activists, policy makers, corporate leaders and entrepreneurs united by their commitment to innovation as the key to a sustainable future.
I was already aware of this kind of structure to discuss similar issues by following the Social Media Today which uses the same platform (called Wordframe). They also have a few other communities using the same basic approach. What I like about these two examples is that they show how intelligent discussions can take place between “experts” and it provides some really useful way to learn about a topic and discuss certain subjects (either through comments or through direct posting).
With many clients we have been exploring various tools to create, manager or engage with online communities and it is clear that there is no magic bullet and many experiments out there (read my post on what we have been doing for ZN) and even more dead communities or failed attempts at building online communities that simply don’t have momentum.
Most of the communities that are very active center around web or technology related subjects which is why I really like the energy collective as it demonstrates that the same logic can apply to any kind of environment. I expect that over time these online communities will be considered as the source of real expertise and the thought leaders will develop and share ideas from there and onwards to others. They also become a place where experts, policy makers, journalists and interested parties can build their expertise and profile on the issues.
One thing I am missing is more transparency behind who is funding these initiatives. In the case of the energy collective it would help to know if there is a political agenda behind the organisation – maybe it is there somewhere but I have missed it. As it is a very sensitive topic I think they should be clear and upfront about who is doing this, why and how they get paid for their time (for editing and managing the community).