3733 How to assure longevity of web tools by creating a community of engaged intermediaries

Henrik Riisgaard , Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
Soeren Kerndrup , Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
Justification of the paper:

Many projects have delivered tools that are seldomly used after the funded project is over. In this project, the life after project "death" is in focus: How to improve SME’s environmental performance  by creating web-based tools and platforms, communities of practice and networks.

Purpose:

The Confederation of Danish Industries, the Danish EPA, Aalborg University and an NGO, Green Cross, have together over the past almost three years developed a web-based platform for 10 tools targeting the sustainability efforts of SMEs. One of the challenges for the project is to assure that the¬ potentials for improving environmental performance by using platform and tools will continue after the project ends in early 2013 by creating platforms for networking and communities of practice.

Theoretical framework:

The paper highlights especially the concepts and efforts of building up capacities of networking and practice for improving the capability to use the web-based platforms and webtools to improve environmental performance. These efforts built on theories of networking (Håkansson), communities of practice (Wenger) and sharing of knowledge and learning (Hargadon) and involve a variety of elements.

Results:

A key element solution is to integrate the use of tools into the existing networks and  communities of practice, where Danish SMEs are already active.  Three subtasks were identified:

•         Identification of networks and communities of practice relevant for existing SMEs and intermediates (mainly industry associations, regional sustainability forums for businesses, and environmental inspectors in municipalities)

•         Capacity building of intermediaries in order to upgrade their competence and skills as mediators for environmental improvement in network and communities of SMEs

•         Creating a self-sustaining platform for continuous sharing and updating of materials of relevance to the 10 SME tools.

For improving the effect of the learning and knowledge in networks and communities of practice  by training of intermediaries and to create exchange of experiences and continuous updating, the project partners apply social media, tool specific digital libraries of documents, cases and videos. Also the next generation of professionals are targeted: through communities of practice and networking and other ways of organising and integrating, the participating university is influencing the up-coming of sustainability managers so that future SME employees are more familiar with the tools.

Conclusions:

Previous experiences with projects dying on project delivery day were deliberately countered through involvement of existing networks and existing communities of practice.