This paper conceives communities (in this case, partnerships) as being able to become collective informative repositories of individual and collective actions that may better-inform their members. This paper presents one approach for studying if a community has become such an informative repository. The approach used here consists of introducing a formal language (Viable Systems Modelling, VSM) into one of the community nodes (a participant) and tracing if its use is seen in another node (another participant) - indicating the presence of a process of diffusion. This research design has been tested in a crime-reduction partnership in the UK. One of its members was asked to engage in the design and testing of this approach as a co-researcher. As a result, a questionnaire to map communication and control devices inside an organization was jointly developed. In keeping with VSM principles, the questionnaire encouraged participants to reflect on attenuation and amplification processes within their communications channels. To test the quality of the outcomes of this approach, members from another crime-reduction partnership were also invited to answer the survey; this was to confirm that VSM notions were not evident for those outside the development and testing of the questionnaire. The questionnaire indicated also its capability to make visible communication and organizational processes within collectives and its potential to stimulate self-organization, for those individuals who became familiar with VSM. Furthermore, this approach provided the authors with the capability to study information flows inside the two collectives, and contributed to an understanding of these flows as a model for building and maintaining a Community Informative System.
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- Collective improvement
- Collective informative systems
- Individual action
- Viable system model