What is a Community of Practice?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are groups of people who share an interest or a passion for something they do, and a desire to share knowledge and learn as they interact regularly. Three characteristics are crucial:
- The domain: A community of practice has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members.
- The community: In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.
- The practice: Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction.
It is the combination of these three elements that constitutes a community of practice. And it is by developing these three elements in parallel that one cultivates such a community. Communities develop their practice through a variety of activities including: problem solving; requests for information; seeking experience; reusing assets; coordination and synergy; discussing developments; documentation; site visits; creation of materials and resources and mapping knowledge and identifying gaps.
How Communities of Practice Make a Difference
The benefits of this type of mutuality and co-participation include:
- More perspective and understanding of the problems and issues = Improved solutions
- Shared Practice = Less duplication and reduced cost and time
- Shared Knowledge = Stronger workforce and more sources of expertise
- Meaningful participation = Improved performance and outcomes
- Increased trust and confidence = Increased success and sustainability