What is a community of practice?
It is a group of people who share a craft and/or a passion.
A CoP can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest in a particular domain area or you can be created deliberately with the goal of gaining knowledge related a specific topic.
Members learn from each other and have an opportunity to develop both personally and professionally by sharing experiences and information with the group.
Where do CoPs exist?
- in physical settings such as a lunch room at work, a factory floor or anywhere else in the environment
- VCoP – Virtual Community of Practice – members collaborate online
- MCoP – Mobile Community of Practice – communicate via mobile phones and participate in community work on the go
How did the structure come about?
It was created over time through a process of legitimate peripheral participation:
Legitimation and participation together define the characteristic ways of belonging to a community whereas the peripherality and participation are concerned with location and identity in the social world.
Describe the structure of a CoP?
(Wenger 1998) He describes the structure of a CoP consisting of 3 inter-related terms:
- Mutual Engagement: members in the community establish norms and build collaborative relationships
- Joint Enterprise: through the members interactions, they create a shared understanding of what binds them together (domain)
- Shared Repertoire: As part of its practice, the community produces a set of communal resources which is called their “shared repertoire”.
What are the differences between CoPs and Communities of Interest?
Communities of Interest are groups of people interested in sharing information and discussing a particular topic that interests them. Members are not necessarily experts or practitioners on the topic involved. Members only need to be interested in the topic.
Communities of practice are groups of people who are active practitioners and the purpose of a CoP is to provide a way for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues and provide support for each other. Membership is dependent on expertise in the topic.