Social value creation for sustainable online communities

Panteli, Niki and Chamakiotis, Petros (2017) Social value creation for sustainable online communities. In: Bi-annual meeting of the ICSI (Interpersonal Communication and Social Interaction) Division of ECREA, European Communication Research and Education Association: '(Mediated) Social Interaction in Groups, Networks and Organizations', October 23-25 2017, Helsinki, Finland. (Accepted)

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Online communities (OCs) have seen exponential growth and popularity over the last few years, and have thus attracted cross-disciplinary scholarly and practitioner attention. They have been described as groups of people who communicate, interact and develop relationships within a technology-mediated organizing space that is symbolically defined by topic of interest (Lee et al. 2002) or a shared practice (Ren et al. 2007; Soekijad et al. 2011; Wasko and Faraj 2005). OC sustainability has so far been linked to a growing membership, that is the more members the community attracts, the more likely it is that it will remain sustainable. In this study we extend theory in this area by exploring the role of social value for OC sustainability.

OCs are increasingly seen as spaces for knowledge flows that provide value to society and to participants (Faraj et al. 2016). Despite this, limited research exists on social value creation in this context. Barrett et al. (2016) identify financial, ethical, and other (non social) forms of value creation in OCs whilst Goh et al. (2016) provided empirical evidence of social value creation in online health communities in particular. Beyond the OC literature, the study of social value creation within the field of information systems remains scant, with researchers focusing on social value creation in the contexts of inter-organizational (Weber et al. 2017) and public-private (Caldwell et al. 2017) collaborations. We take the position that social value is the knowledge richness that is generated as a result of the interactions between two or more parties and which has wider societal implications. In order to explore the effect of social value creation on the OC sustainability, we study the case of MedicineAfrica.

MedicineAfrica is an online healthcare initiative whose aim is to promote healthcare education by sharing knowledge sharing and learning in poorly resourced countries, such as Somaliland and Iraq. Our approach is qualitative and draws primarily on interviews with different projects and groups of participants involved in MedicineAfrica. Our data so far suggest that social value is created through the emergence of human and social capital which substantially benefits both those in the remote and fragile areas, as well as those giving up their time to share their knowledge and expertise. Furthermore, it is found that social value entails a ‘give and take’ approach. In the paper we explore this both theoretically and empirically in relation to our understanding of social value as knowledge richness.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Business and Management
Depositing User: Petros Chamakiotis
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2017 12:31
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 12:31
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