Communities of Practice (CoP)
A CoP is a network of people with a common interest or problem in a specific area of competence and who are willing to work together for a given time to learn, develop and share that knowledge.
Six essential aspects of a successful CoP
- Strong community – a group of (more or less) active members with a lively interest for the CoP and its topics and who give it priority. Member pool is often fluctuating not stable.
- Clear and well-defined domain – there is a specific thematic orientation; the domain is relevant and meaningful to members.
- Link to own practice- members are active in the given domain. Shared experiences, concepts and strategies spring from and are being tested against the individual reality of practice.
- Personal motivation – membership is voluntary and based on personal interest.
- Mandate – the involved organization(s) defines and is interested in the given thematic focus and has an interest in a concrete outcome. Commitment of members is supported by providing necessary working time and resources.
- Informal structure – goes beyond organizational boxes and lines, often combining horizontal and diagonal links. It makes a link between units within and/or between the organization(s).
Networks and Communities of Practice (CoPs) are both specific forms of cooperation. Whereas networks represent interests, agendas and resources of organizations, CoPs are more driven by individuals and their personal priorities. CoPs are involving a sense of common identity and purpose, a sense of belonging; networks are more topic- and interest-oriented forms.
CoPs may develop into networks and vice versa. The CoP à Network dynamism represents the formalization or institutionalization of an “informal” initiative. The Network à CoP dynamism represents the need to leave organizational logics and procedures in order e.g. to be creative and innovative.
- Ensure that key stakeholders are members; balance giving and taking.
- Strive for most practical and tangible outputs/outcomes; disseminate them widely.
- Carefully select how to “be connected” – balance and combine face to face meetings with other means.
- Combine informality with a basic set of rules for communication and collaboration.
- Ensure ownership within – cultivate and support the roles of manager, expert, facilitator.Adjust to changes in the environment.
In addition to the SDC Knowledge Management Toolkit
Find more information about communities of practice:
- What is a community of practice?
- Concepts on communities of practice
- Questions and answers