My research topic examines building virtual communities among members within professional associations. Based on the context and the preliminary research that has been conducted, I choose self-determination theory as my theoretical framework to help guide my work. This framework distinguishes “between different types of motivation based on different reasons or goals that give rise to an action” (Ryan and Deci, 2000, p. 55).

When looking at professional associations, such as the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association (MFOA), their goal is to provide professional development and networking opportunities for those specialized in municipal finance in Ontario. The assumption is that networking events and professional development opportunities proposed by an association attract individuals who are determined, proactive and have a desire to engage with with those that are working in similar professional environments like themselves and/or the training content.

Self-determination theory uses intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to understand peoples’ behaviour when examining how they may interact with professional associations and their membership. According to Ryan and Deci (2000), an intrinsically motivated individual has a tendency to seek out opportunities that are personally satisfying rather than succumbing to external pressures. While extrinsically motivated individual will engage with an opportunity only if it can lead to a desired outcome (Wang, Zhang, Hao and Chen, 2019). Developing virtual communities require an understanding of members’ behaviour and their motivation to participate. I believe the self-determination theory is able to provide such a lens for my research.

My questions are:

  • Would you agree that the self-determination theory should be used to help guide my research? If not, is there another framework I should consider?
  • How can an organization like MFOA use assumptions from intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to support their design and development of virtual communities?


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54-67.

Wang, J., Zhang, R., Hao, J.-X., & Chen, X. (2019). Motivation factors of knowledge collaboration in virtual communities of practice: a perspective from system dynamics. Journal of Knowledge Management, 23(3), 466–488.