When is a Community of Practice Not a Community of Practice?
As you all probably know there are many definitions on what is a Community of Practice this is one that I use
“A CoP brings these people together. They can share a common area of interest and a variety of expertise and skills, or have issues or problems to air, share and solve. Good practice and ideas are also shared to enhance the knowledge and expertise of the community.”
But for some reason everyone has gone down the line of creating online Communities and I have done that as well, where we provide online spaces with a bunch of tools (blogs, forums, wikis, libraries and a homepage).
This doesn’t make them a CoP; it’s just what we called them. The online tools do not define how the group works. The group should define how they work and this is forgotten. This follows on from John Tropea blog on The unexpected emergence from our Communities of Practice
I was in a brainstorming session the other day for a new project where they where recruiting people to play a fellow role. The group was asking how the fellows could communicate and collaborate with each other.
Lots of ideas where suggested on what they could use. So as usual my size nines got involved and in big letters I wrote “ASK THEM FIRST” And during the feedback sessions everyone stopped, thought for a second and then the lightbulb went on.
Anyway back to the point. The IDeA CoP Platform is now in its third year and has over 1000 communities. And I’ve realised that not every group will work in the same way and that they will not always be what I would define as a Community of Practice.
Here’s some of the ways that I would say they are working
- Ad-hoc tasks – Groups want to do tasks in an online space rather than email
- Signposting – creating a community to let everyone know what is happening
- Team sites – teams that are struggling to collaborate with the tools in their organisation so use a CoP platform as an alternative.
- Project Support – using the CoP to run and manage the project in a transparent way with all project team members
- Events and meeting support – a document repository of meeting notes agendas and upcoming events
- CoPs – group of people coming together for a common purpose to learn and share with each other.
I would say there are less CoPs compared to the other types, but they are making more of a difference