Communities of Practice (CoPs) are a proven knowledge management strategy. A Community of Practice is “a group of people who share a concern, set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder in Hammer, 2008). This collaboration and knowledge sharing results in transfer of knowledge and new technology which is then shared throughout the organization. CoPs can support problem solving and collaboration among participants in geographically dispersed locations. This interaction assists with identification of subject matter experts and provides access to their experience.
Through regular interaction, participants create a “tight, effective loop of insight, problem identification, learning, and knowledge production” (Burk, 2000 in Hammer 2008). Within these groups, trust develops so that information imparted by participating subject matter experts is considered trustworthy and valuable. This level of trust supports dissemination of information. Informal networks may function within an organization, but the formation of a CoP implies leadership support and acknowledgment of the value of the strategy.
Strategies for Groups: COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
► Sharing tacit knowledge to support problem solving and collaboration among participants in order to deepen knowledge and expertise.
► Creates a network of contacts.
► Helps to identify subject matter experts.
► Mechanism for sharing knowledge and new technology for the benefit of the organization.
► Builds trust between participants which supports dissemination of information.
► Organized around a profession, shared roles, and/or common issues.
► May be formed within a unit, with individuals in different units, or with individuals in various organizations.
► Whenever tacit information can be shared to improve individual knowledge and support organization goals.
► Determine focus of the group.
► Invite subject matter experts within the agency and in affiliate organizations.
► Determine how often to meet and how meeting will occur.
► Leadership must sanction the concept of Communities of Practice.
► Participation is voluntary.
► Management should not be involved in the group.
► Focus is on sharing information, rather than taking action.
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