Understanding a special operations role: network caretakers of Knowledge-Based Communities of Practice
Robey, John W.
Webber, Paul M.
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The success of special operations often depends upon building and sustaining relationships with partners. Because of the unconventional environment in which we operate, relationships can also be non-standard, including academics, reporters, and private industry. By creating a community of practice, individuals in special operations may be able to connect groups of subject-matter experts who share a deep interest in a particular activity and, through regular interaction with special operations, learn how to engage more effectively in this activity. The work of this thesis is two-fold: building a Knowledge-Based Community of Practice and applying this design method to the authors' case study of Libya. This research offers a partial solution by bolstering a deeper environmental understanding through the creation of such a Knowledge-Based Community of Practice, consisting of a spectrum of individuals with differing perspectives, to engage in iterated structured dialogues. The structure, design, and life cycle of a community of practice, as well as the types and frequencies of interactions and implications of the post-information age are explored. The design methods are rooted in Army doctrine as a method of structuring interactions and distilling information to local planners. Big data sets are implemented to back-stop information from structured sessions. In short, the authors reflect on the establishment and sustainment of a community of practice to better connect with subject-matter experts who care to bring to bear a more complete understanding of an operational environment prior to, during, or in order to avoid altogether the application of military force.
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