Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving Enhancing and Accessing Expertise: Creating Collaborative Communities of Heart

Enhancing and Accessing Expertise: Creating Collaborative Communities of Heart

94 min read


William Bergquist Ph.D. and Kevin Weitz, Psy.D.

[Note: the content of this essay has been included in a recently published book called The Crises of Expertise and Belief. This paperback book can be purchased by clicking on this link.]

How do we improve not just the quality of expertise being delivered in mid-21st century societies, but also access to and acceptance of high-quality expertise? We believe that quality is improved with diversity of input and both access and acceptance are improved with a broad-based collaboration among diverse communities. What is the nature of such a venture in collaboration among diverse communities and how does this collaboration ensure (or at least increase the probability) of expertise being created and shared that is credible and of high quality?

Community Capital and Expertise

To begin with, the creation and use of high quality and credible expertise requires capital. This usually means the expenditure of a large amount of money so that highly-paid experts can be brought in to solve a problem—and then ride out of town on their silver stallion. This type of expertise not only can’t be afforded, ultimately it does not provide either the shared credibility or continuity that is needed for long-term solution to challenging issues.
We propose a quite different portrait of the resources that are needed. Effective engagement of expertise and effective use of the expertise that is provided requires the expanded use of what we are defining as community capital. Community capital incorporates three elements that are found in or holds the potential to be found in all viable communities. Each of these elements relates to a specific source of expertise.

Natural Capital

First, there is Natural Capital. the community is located in an environment that is filled with many resources for extraction (such as trees, minerals or fish), for production (such as physical facilities and machines) or tourism (beautiful or historical setting). We propose that there are parallels in the domain of collective expertise and the often-temporary communities in which collective expertise is engaged to what exists in the domain of physical communities. The natural capital that is found in physical communities is replicated in the Natural Expertise that exists in settings where important issues are being addressed.

This natural expertise consists of the technical knowledge to be found in this setting regarding the issues being addressed. “Who knows how to fix this?” “What do we need to do in preparing for the launch of this project?” This natural expertise also is found among those participants who know how to create the conditions for collective expertise. As we soon will be describing, there are structures, processes and attitudes that directly enhance the engagement and use of expertise. There are people who know how to bring these sources of enhancement to the table (or room).

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