Cultivating communities of purpose to enhance market opportunities of rural producers through collaborative knowled


Community of practice helps in nurturing and exchanging specific practice- related knowledge among communitarian members. While such community formation positively enhances the knowledge capability of members or virtual practitioners, it may or may not have purposive outcomes. In this context, it needs to be remembered that our research initiatives advocate community formation using a social knowledge management platform to mitigate extant rural—urban knowledge divide. The socio-economic marginalization of the rural population, in comparison to their urban counterparts, urges us not to limit communitarian formation solely along practice-oriented lines.

Community of practice (Wenger et al., 2002), facilitating practice-oriented collaborations within and across groups, enables rural members to enhance their individual capability. However, it does not necessarily guarantee translation of enhanced capability into generating concrete economic results. Thus community of practice can mitigate knowledge asymmetry of rural producers but not their market separation. In order to address our dual goal, in this chapter we have advocated cultivating community of purpose (Stukes, 2016) among rural—urban entities. The community of purpose, although underdefined in existing literature, can be defined as a community of people, unified with a common goal, purpose or objective. The reason why we think community of purpose can be a prospective means to mitigate both knowledge asymmetry and market separation of rural target group is because of the promise of purposive collaboration and networking that it assures.

Community of purpose is defined as a community of people who are going through the same process or are trying to achieve a similar objective with a defined purpose. While shared practice accounts to be the premise of community of practice, it is purpose or a clearly defined objective that unites the members of community of purpose. In rural context, while practice-oriented community formation has huge prospects in enhancing the social benefits of the members, it is also important to augment the social benefits with economic pursuit. This highlights that both community of practice and purpose, in amalgamation, have the credentials to counter marginalization of rural sector along a socio-economic axis. When economic pursuit, being a specific and defined purpose, triggers community formation in rural context, the outcome assures socio-economic benefits on a holistic scale.

Community of purpose, in spite of possessing enormous potential to uplift rural communities, is under-defined in research literature. Barring a few sources — such as Wikipedia and a white paper published by e-Moderation, a social media management group — community of purpose has not received much attention, both in academic and developmental spheres. The few sources that mention the concept primarily define it along the premise of a shared objective, a common and clearly defined goal with a fixed purpose (Happe, 2010). Since the concept has immense prospects in facilitating relevant knowledge exchange among communitarian members, it is crucial to demystify how to construct, nurture and sustain an ecosystem which will support formation of community of purpose.

In our research framework we have attempted to build community of purpose among rural—urban agencies, where market incentives are the unifying purpose. If economy is to be taken as the unifying purpose, then we can see there have been many attempts to unify rural producers with urban buyers, along both physical and virtual lines (described in detail in Part I). However, it needs to be remembered that forming community of purpose is different from conventional direct-selling physical marketplaces and e-commerce sites. Cultivating a community of purpose to boost the market prospects of rural producers, apart from taking into account aspects related to market transactions, also serves to be a product of social knowledge management. In rural context, participants not just lack access to market but also suffer from other ancillary factors, which in amalgamation contribute to sustained marginalization. Since they account to be disempowered groups, economic initiatives with a solely economic focus are insufficient to generate desired outcomes. It is through community formation, through relevant dialogue and collaboration, that attempts can be undertaken to empower the rural marginalized on a holistic scale. Cultivating community of purpose through social knowledge management offers hope here because, apart from providing relevant market-related connections, it attempts to develop knowledge capability of rural members through purposive collaborations.

The chapter is divided into five segments:

  • • The first part provides a conceptual description of community of purpose.
  • • The second part attempts to flesh out the relevance of community of purpose in bridging market separation of rural producers. The section ends by hinting at the connecting spirit of contemporary digital technologies and the relevance it plays in building community of purpose in rural context.
  • • The third part is dedicated to spelling out a digital framework, which has the potential to support the formation and sustenance of online community of purpose for rural community, comprising relevant rural—urban agents.
  • • The fourth part demonstrates an integrated social knowledge management platform, NCoRe, which has the capacity to cultivate community of purpose among rural—urban communities to ensure active participation of rural producers in the process of market transactions.
  • • The chapter concludes with in-depth reference to our field insights, which validate our conceptualization and implementation initiative of building community of purpose through social knowledge management platform.

Community of purpose: A conceptual framework

Community of purpose can be defined as a community of people, unified with a common goal, purpose or objective. Over time and with technological development, the traditional significance of community as a territorial phenomenon has declined. Instead, the conceptualization that community is a relational phenomenon has gained ground over the years. Relational communities are not limited by geography and are primarily characterized as relational bonds and the psychological sense of belonging to a community or an integrated whole (Royal Sc Rossi, 1996). Such a community is concerned with the quality of character of human relationships and to the effectivity of collaborations that it facilitates, without referring to location or other individual traits (Gusfield, 1975). Community of purpose, in this context, is not a strictly geographical phenomenon. It is a clearly defined purpose, rather than territorial or ascriptive traits, which unites the members of community of purpose. And both physical and virtual lines can act as a potential medium of unification.

In our research initiatives we have identified cultivation of community of purpose among rural—urban communities as a potential vehicle to mitigate economic hindrances faced by rural producers. The reason why we think community of purpose can be a prospective means in our research initiatives is because of the promise of purposive collaboration and networking that it assures. (Stukes, 2016) articulates the parameters responsible for a successful community of purpose-supported network as:

  • Bridging structural holes — Structural holes are characterized by interaction gaps, which prevent connections and therefore create holes within network structures. Purposive collaboration supported by community of purpose positively contributes in bridging structural holes.
  • Mobilizing social capital — Community of purpose by triggering effective pur- pose-oriented networking helps in mobilizing social capital of communitarian members.
  • Mediating societal harriers — Open and purposive interactions help members to counter negative perceptions about themselves, which are gifted to them by the stringencies of social conventions. Moreover, commitment to the common purpose, instead of ascriptive traits or geography, accounts to be the premise of community of purpose, which makes it defiant of social conventions, which largely guide community formations.
  • Awareness of the isolated — Community of purpose, by triggering purposive collaborations, attempts to enhance the knowledge capability of members, thereby enhancing their awareness and operative capacities in the process.
  • Decentralized leadership — Transactions taking place through community of purpose are the result of purposive collaborations among members, without the presence of a centralized authority determining transactional dynamics.
  • Capturing dynamic processes — Community of purpose is constantly changing, adapting and innovating and expanding beyond its immediate local context. The flexible nature makes community of purpose suited to accommodating changes in alliance with alterations in surrounding settings.

These credentials highlight how community of purpose, in triggering the above-stated factors, has the capacity to transcend its immediate purpose and can be rightly identified as the product of social knowledge management. Since marginalized rural context happens to be our research premise, community of purpose and its relation to social knowledge management makes this an effective strategy to usher in empowerment in an already under-privileged social setting. In order to further establish the effectivity of cultivating community of purpose to enhance socio-economic prospects of rural producers, in the following section we will discuss the relevance of cultivating community of purpose to bridge the market separation of rural producers. The section, by highlighting the credentials of community of purpose in enhancing economic prospects of rural producers, articulates why such a purposive community formation is appropriate in rural context, where the members are already striving to make a living amidst a marginalized setting.

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