This paper explores evaluating organisational communities of practice using an approach called “Developmental Evaluation” – an evaluation method which is characterized by learning orientation and the active participation of those involved.

This paper claims that the traditional approaches which are generally used are too simplistic. These traditional approaches are listed below –

  • a measure of the inputs required to establish or sustain a CoP
  • a measure of the activity of the CoP (i.e. the number of participants, frequency of participation, time taken for queries to be answered)
  • a measure of the outputs generated by the CoP (i.e. queries answered, decisions made, actions undertaken or enhanced)

Developmental Evaluation:

  • consistent with the principles of CoPs themselves – learning, engagement, knowledge development
  • this approach is particularly suited to exploration and to supporting adaption and change
  • the individual evaluation approaches engage people in the process of reflecting on CoP performance & emphasize the importance of creating constructive dialogue between the CoP leaders and the knowledge management team within an organisation
  • it requires those undertaking it to have skills in evaluative questions & be capable of evaluative thinking about evidence
  • it requires a learning environment in which there is a focus on expanding the capacity of those involved “to create, to think, and to act openly in the quest to learn together”

Using Developmental Evaluation in Practice

The intention of the study in this paper (evaluation of CoPs in four different organisations) was to see the effect of adopting and adapting 6 discrete developmental evaluation frameworks:

evaluation

The study resulted in 7 distinct observations:

  1. a developmental and learning orientation seems to motivate people to be involved
  2. the knowledge manager needs to be willing to “follow through” and sustain the momentum that the approach generates
  3. Developmental Evaluation increases the capability of the knowledge managers involved
  4. the language and culture of the organisation need to be taken into account in judging how to frame and implement all the Developmental Evaluation approaches
  5. Questions such as “What now?”, “So What?” and “What next?” proved to be very powerful in prompting thinking about improvement opportunities – findings and recommendations are more likely to be put into practice
  6. Maturity models were helpful in understanding the current reality – simply asking “Now what?” at appropriate points helped to contribute to making the process developmental
  7. Developmental Evaluation is characterized by a future-orientated mindset

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Reference:

Strategies, K. (n.d.). Evaluating communities of practice : adopting learning-oriented approaches, (31).

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