What are best practices anyway?

Best practices: these mysterious things that I hear talked about again and again.  I have been told that we need to look for and implement them.   The idea sounds good.  Look for what works and repeat everywhere.

I do not believe it is that simple.  I’ve been giving it some thought lately and the challenge I see is that what is best for one community is not necessarily the best for another.

Different communities certainly have in common that they are groups of people, however, that is potentially the end of the similarities between any two groups.  The cultural personality of one community changes the way it’s participants interact with each other and with information. This cultural difference is what makes a community alive, vibrant and unique. To say that any one idea will ever work in every type of community is simply wrong.

While the truly ‘best practices’ out there are the ones which work for many different cultures and communities, it is also possible to have a project that is incredibly specialized to one culture, and which is able to have a great effect on it.

So, I propose a change of wording or rather a clarification. Let’s search for ‘net positive practices’. In that phrasing there is no assumption of rank, just an acknowledgment that an initiative or plan worked.

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