What Are Communities of Practice?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are self-organising and self-governing groups of people who share a passion for the domain of what they do and strive to be better practitioners.
They pursue a shared learning agenda and they create value for their members and stakeholders through developing and spreading new knowledge, practices, capabilities and organisational capacity. They create knowledge networks across professional and hierarchical boundaries, and access the intelligence that is everywhere in the system.
Communities of Practice are founded on research into how adults learn in an organisational environment. People learn through informal networks (in the cafeteria; observing each other at work; in informal conversations about what’s working). They uncover the invisible ways that effective work gets done, turning tacit knowledge into the explicit. Communities of Practice have become intentional strategies for boundary-crossing, integrative and rigorous sharing of practice in sectors as diverse as the energy exploration industry; for safety improvement in the chemical industry; for raising teaching standards in large school districts in the U.S.; and for community health workers in at risk populations.
Communities of Practice are not new in the NHS and have an established place in improvement work. The cross-professional and organisational boundary nature of CoP’s give them the potential for reducing fragmentation of practice in service to issues that really matter, like Patient Safety, and that are complex and beyond the scope of any individual, profession or organisation.
In the NHS, “a CoP differs from a delivery network because membership is optional and the ways of working are informal…it’s a conversational relationship of peers who want to share and learn from each other…It would really be of benefit to you, as a leader of improvement, to be part of a Community of Practice as they are useful not only for sharing and learning, but also they are a great support particularly if you feel isolated in your particular leadership role. They will also help you develop cross boundary relationships with leader in other parts of the organisation or community.” (From the Improvement Leaders’ Guide, by the NHS Institute for Improvement and Innovation.)
The above is derived in large part from: The Co-Creation Network, The Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Academy.
Ingredients of a Community of Practice
Thanks to The Co-Creation Network, The Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Academy, from which this is drawn.