Defining the role of Community Manager for Social Care Wales

Published: 17 October 2022

Red chair and tables outside, covered with raindrops
The Community Manager is responsible for supporting the community to learn, but it’s a role that needs thought and to be resourced properly in order to be effective. 

We’ve recently been helping the Research, Data and Innovation team at Social Care Wales to develop support and services for the social care workforce. We’ve supported them in building out a plan and purpose for a community that will support social care practitioners interested in developing their understanding and use of research and evidence in their practice.

Along the way we’ve learned more about this group of people and what they hope to achieve, and we’ve sought to understand more about their interests and what they want to learn. We need to work closely with practitioners over time, learning more about them and working with them in order to develop truly effective ways to support them in their practice.

To maintain and reinforce Social Care Wales’ investment in this community we’ve been helping them to develop a Community Manager role, and to understand what this role looks like in practice.

How we developed the role

As this would be an entirely new role for Social Care Wales, we started by researching Community Manager job specifications within the public sector, as well as some in the private sector. We reviewed all the roles and responsibilities and set about designing a workshop that would support the Social Care Wales team to understand their needs and also help them to plan resourcing for such a role.

The workshop consisted of three main activities which we thought might be useful for others:

1. Prioritise responsibilities

We took more than 40 roles and responsibilities from the job descriptions and added them to a Miro board. We asked the Social Care Wales team to review each of these in turn and select 15 that they felt were most important. The other roles and responsibilities were put in a car park’ – a section that we could come back to later if we needed to.

Cutting these roles down forced the team to think carefully and ruthlessly, being practical and discussing the different wording of responsibilities to really get under the skin’ of the role.

2. Consider the practicalities

Once a decision had been made, we moved the 15 selected roles and responsibilities into the next part of the workshop, as shown in the Miro board below.

For each of the roles and responsibilities, we first went through a process of defining the tasks and activities involved in delivering against those responsibilities.

This helped the team to understand what tasks actually looked like in practice and helped them to break down the role into understandable activities, enabling them to better imagine the day-to-day work.

3. Define time and effort

Next, we reviewed the tasks and activities and discussed the amount of work needed to do them, and the cadence for delivery.

This helped us to build a picture of how much effort would be required to run the community on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. This had the dual benefit of helping to define tasks and activities while also helping the Social Care Wales community manager to plan their time.

This activity provided a good basis for discussions, and also helped us to see the many ways that the role, tasks and activities may change over time. This resource plan is just the beginning and based on a relatively small community of around 50 people. As the community grows and changes the resource required to run the community will also change. The team will need to revisit this work and make sure they continue to evaluate what is required and to plan and change accordingly.

What we learned

We realised that while we had developed a good understanding of the business as usual’ requirements, we had not fully captured some of the initial activities needed to get a successful community off the ground.

Emily Webber, author of Building Successful Communities of Practice, explains the effort needed in the chart below, developed from the work of Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002).

It shows the input needed from community organisers in the early stages of community development as being much higher than in the self-sustaining stage. This meant we had to build in an understanding of the additional spin up’ resourcing requirements.

However, this workshop activity, combined with the chart, has supported the team in conversations about effort and value. It has helped others in the organisation to understand more about the work required to get communities off the ground. This has already led to decisions about which communities it might be beneficial to run (and what may not) and has helped other parts of Social Care Wales to prioritise their approaches.

This is just the start of the community that Social Care Wales are building, but they now have the ability to understand the responsibilities needed for a Community Manager and to make sure they understand what effort it will take to sustain.

This is just the start for Social Care Wales community development approach. Since Social Finance delivered this work the team have decided to invest in the hire of four community managers, and are undertaking a programme of upskilling and training their team in community development.

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