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Neil Witt :: Blog :: I Community therefore I Practice?

April 05, 2007

OK, what is it with COPs?

Why is there an assumption that just because you have a community of made up of random individuals that you have a CoP? How can anyone “set up a CoP” ? Surely they evolve from a community?

I’m not knocking this project but CoP seems to be a great bandwagon to jump on at the moment (and there’s plenty out there).  A quick trawl of the literature (yep – let’s go and check out Wenger) shows that there’s a few things we need for a CoP: the domain; the community; the practice.

Wenger 101The domain. A CoP has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest “Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people”. It’s about community members’ having passion about their subject and their willingness to communicate and share ideas, information and opinions.

So the CoP’s identity is defined by us, the members……is it the Emerge identity? Is the Users and Innovation programme’s identity? Or is the domain of interest getting our project funded in Round 2? Can we merge ideas….. though with a call coming out in June it’s going to get busy…..

And now the Community….so what’s worked before in successful community building is member engagement - joint activities, discussions, helping each other and sharing information. So it’s the outputs that form the CoP not the technology. It’s the discussions, conversations, knowledge and resources shared by the members that form the CoP……so once again how can anyone “set up a CoP”? Surely we need to have the conversations and create the knowledge before we have the CoP?

So, a CoP is not merely a community of interest and members of a CoP are practitioners - to be a CoP we need to develop (and agree) shared practice (resources - experiences, techniques, methodologies etc).

Wenger tells us a CoP consists of the combination of the domain, community and practice and it is the development of these three elements in parallel that cultivates a community, and CoP members share and develop knowledge by sharing information, insights, and best practices and build a knowledge base.  Lot’s to do then.

I suppose my main question should be, for us to be a CoP, rather than a C, what are the pertinent issues related to our topic?

But then I suppose I should really know what the topic is in the first place before I can even think about pertinent issues.

Overview for Keywords: Community of Practice, CoP, Wenger

Blogs with Keywords: Community of Practice, CoP, Wenger

Posted by Neil Witt


  1. Hi Neil... that is where my concern for using this particular software for this community. I think it can work as a platform for communities of practice... in the sense that people could wander through the website and find people who are working on the things that they are working on... people looking to connect... looking to make more meaning with what they currently have.

    If we have A community of practice, then we are coming here for a specific purpose. From what I've seen of the quality of the people in this community, they are not 'looking to make meaning' they are looking to apply... to practice. They are all very busy people who need to see what it to be gained from the community. (there's also something about levels of membership that needs to be addressed... do I really need to be passionate about every community I'm in?) I would love this community to be a focal point in my practice for this kind of discussion... 

    I need to be able to wander by this community and check out what's new here... I found reference to this post, for instance, in Graham's post from his blog RSSed here on the front page... had to do a search for your name on this site, go to your profile and click on your blog to find it. (and i've installed a dozen elgg systems... not exactly a newbie) Too many clicks. 

    I'm very interested in the possibilities of this community. I need to know, however, that I can visit here once a week... or once every couple of weeks and still know what's going on. One of the reasons, presumably, that we've all ended up here is our interest in collaborative communities... it's stands to reason that we are all members of several. I'll bet I'm not the only one that needs this flexibility.



    dave cormierdave cormier on Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 16:16 BST # |

  2. Because of the way this project was set up (correct me if I am wrong) - project teams bidding to run the CoP (and Emerge team won) and individuals bidding for resources to attend f2f meetings and join the CoP, if Emerge does become a CoP, it will  have particular interesting features.  One that interests me is that participants are effectively going to become in competition with each other in writing proposals for JISC funds and so the sub-communities may become more prized than the CoP.

    I also realise that a whole load of other people will just be joining up what they see as an interesting CoP. 

    A useful question might be if Emerge is a CoP what is the practice?


    BTW, I agree with DC, it's not easy to find out what's going on, especially as it seems that Explode members are sort of imported in some way I don't understand. 

    Frances BellFrances Bell on Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 11:20 BST # |

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