What is a CoP?

 What is a Community of Practice?

“A Community of Practice is an organisational form that assists with knowledge sharing, learning and change. It is generally a self-organising group of people who have come together to share knowledge on a particular field of practice.

“The process of explicitly naming and cultivating Communities of Practice is becoming increasingly widespread in both corporate, government, and civil society settings worldwide. This development is a response to increasing complexity and the shift to a knowledge society. The assumption here is that knowledge can no longer be packaged, externalised, and put in databases and remain relevant over time. We need to be able to draw on living, tacit, contextual knowledge, which primarily exists within people and can only be volunteered, not conscripted.

“Communities of Practice are designed to be able to transmit knowledge voluntarily on a 'pull' basis (as and when needed for a specific problem or situation) rather than on a “push” basis (where the expert decides what others need to know and presents it to them in a one-way communication). This process requires strong and trustful relationships because it relies on “know-who” in order to transmit “know-how”. Communities of Practice employ a number of different dialogue tools in order to build these relationships and enable learning among their members.

“The paradox of this organisational form is that it often fails if it is over-managed but it does need to be cultivated to be sustained. It needs to be supported yet be left to create its own boundaries and identity to be successful. After all, relationships are largely determined by chemistry and by building trust over time.” [Source: Mapping Dialogue: A research project profiling dialogue tools and processes for social change, p. 62

The Minessence Group

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