What is a Community of Practice?

There are many ways of conceptualizing a community of practice. In an effort to coalesse a set of best practices for building effective communities of practice - and to understand the shared experiences of individuals who lead and participate in a variety of communities of practice - we needed to level-set around what we mean by the term Community of Practice (CoP).

To develop a shared understanding of the topic, community leaders and members shared their own definitions (below) and Examples/Case Studies to illuminate their experience. Common attributes include:

  • A group of people;

  • Shared interest or affinity (often, a profession);

  • Engagement or shared activity with each other;

  • A reason or purpose for interacting (often, a purpose beyond individual gain); and

  • Often, mutual support, learning, and/or growth.


ShapingEDU + CoAction Creates Member Definitions

To me, a community of practice is a commitment to an area of expertise (a shared domain interest) by a group of vested individuals or practitioners with shared values that focuses on engagement and takes part in an activity (sharing, gaining of information) that creates a shared outcome(s) (Angela Dick).
People who are linked by a shared interest/role/profession who work together to advance change/knowledge about that shared interest or profession (Rachel Sullivan).

Key elements are that we have shared goals, strong facilitation, and actual outcomes. Strong communities of practice are like this where we’re producing something for the greater good (Christine Kroll).

A group of passionate people committed to sharing for the greater good. People are both contributing and feel good about what they’re contributing, but also able to go in and pull info to share with others (Lisa Stephens).

A group of individuals all of whom sit on a continuum from novice to master with a shared affinity for and expertise in a particular domain/field, who are committed to sharing what they know and interested in learning more, via mentoring, networking, and engaging in community activities (Alexandra Pickett).
A community of learners who want to learn from each other and build something they couldn’t build individually and something that contributes back to the community of practice’s interest. Creativity and collaboration (Ryan Wetzel).
Intentional sharing, encouragement, and troubleshooting among a group of individuals who have created a safe space for learning and developing expertise within a specific theme, goal, and/or passion of a shared interest (Mary Loder).

People, drawn together by a shared interest or set of interests and often operating in blended environments, gathering to learn and to produce concrete results to the benefit of the community and those it serves (Paul Signorelli).

A community of practice is made up of individuals with common interests and passions who want to learn from each other, share ideas, discover solutions, and collaborate in order to reach a common goal or set of outcomes (Jenna Linskens).




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