A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a craft or a profession. The concept was first proposed by cognitive anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Etienne Wenger in their 1991 book Situated Learning (Lave & Wenger 1991). Wenger then significantly expanded on the concept in his 1998 book Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998).
A CoP can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created deliberately with the goal of gaining knowledge related to a specific field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991).
CoPs can exist in physical settings, for example, a lunch room at work, a field setting, a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment, but members of CoPs do not have to be co-located. They form a "virtual community of practice" (VCoP) (Dubé, Bourhis & Jacob 2005) when they collaborate online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or a "mobile community of practice" (MCoP) (Kietzmann et al. 2013) when members communicate with one another via mobile phones and participate in community work on the go.
Communities of practice are not new phenomena: this type of learning has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling. The idea is rooted in American pragmatism, especially C. S. Peirce's concept of the "community of inquiry" (Shields 2003), but also John Dewey's principle of learning through occupation (Wallace 2007).
Since the publication of "Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation" (Lave & Wenger 1991), communities of practice have been the focus of attention, first as a theory of learning and later as part of the field of knowledge management. See Hildreth & Kimble (2004) for a review of how the concept has changed over the years. Cox (2005) offers a more critical view of the different ways in which the term communities of practice can be interpreted.
To understand how learning occurs outside the classroom while at the Institute for Research on Learning, Lave and Wenger studied how newcomers or novices to informal groups become established members of those groups (Lave & Wenger 1991). Lave and Wenger first used the term communities of practice to describe learning through practice and participation, which they named situated learning.
The structure of the community was created over time through a process of legitimate peripheral participation. Legitimation and participation together define the characteristic ways of belonging to a community whereas peripherality and participation are concerned with location and identity in the social world (Lave & Wenger 1991, p. 29).
Lave and Wenger's research looked at how apprenticeships help people learn. They found that when newcomers join an established group or community, they spend some time initially observing and perhaps performing simple tasks in basic roles as they learn how the group works and how they can participate (an apprentice electrician, for example would watch and learn before actually doing any electrical work; initially taking on small simple jobs and eventually more complicated ones). Lave and Wenger described this socialization process as legitimate peripheral participation. The term "community of practice" is that group that Lave and Wenger referred to, who share a common interest and a desire to learn from and contribute to the community with their variety of experiences (Lave & Wenger 1991).
In his later work, Wenger (1998) abandoned the concept of legitimate peripheral participation and used the idea of an inherent tension in a duality instead. He identifies four dualities that exist in communities of practice, participation-reification, designed-emergent, identification-negotiability and local-global, although the participation-reification duality has been the focus of particular interest because of its links to knowledge management.
For Etienne Wenger, learning is central to human identity. A primary focus of Wenger’s more recent work is on learning as social participation – the individual as an active participant in the practices of social communities, and in the construction of his/her identity through these communities (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder 2002). In this context, a community of practice is a group of individuals participating in communal activity, and experiencing/continuously creating their shared identity through engaging in and contributing to the practices of their communities.
The structural characteristics of a community of practice are again redefined to a domain of knowledge, a notion of community and a practice.
In many organizations, communities of practice have become an integral part of the organization structure (McDermott & Archibald 2010). These communities take on knowledge stewarding tasks that were formerly covered by more formal organizational structures. In some organizations there are both formal and informal communities of practice. There is a great deal of interest within organizations to encourage, support, and sponsor communities of practice in order to benefit from shared knowledge that may lead to higher productivity (Wenger 2004). Communities of practice are now viewed by many in the business setting as a means to capturing the tacit knowledge, or the know-how that is not so easily articulated.
An important aspect and function of communities of practice is increasing organization performance. Lesser & Storck (2001, p. 836) identify four areas of organizational performance that can be affected by communities of practice:
The communities Lave and Wenger studied were naturally forming as practitioners of craft and skill-based activities met to share experiences and insights (Lave & Wenger 1991).
Lave and Wenger observed situated learning within a community of practice among Yucatán midwives, Liberian tailors, navy quartermasters and meat cutters (Lave & Wenger 1991) as well as insurance claims processors. (Wenger 1998). Other fields have made use of the concept of CoPs. Examples include education (Grossman 2001), sociolinguistics, material anthropology, medical education, second language acquisition (Kimble, Hildreth & Bourdon 2008), Parliamentary Budget Offices (Chohan 2013), health care and business sectors, and child mental health practice (AMBIT).
A famous example of a community of practice within an organization is that which developed around the Xerox customer service representatives who repaired the machines in the field (Brown & Duguid 2000). The Xerox reps began exchanging tips and tricks over informal meetings over breakfast or lunch and eventually Xerox saw the value of these interactions and created the Eureka project to allow these interactions to be shared across the global network of representatives. The Eureka database has been estimated to have saved the corporation $100 million.
Collaboration constellations differ in various ways. Some are under organizational control (e.g., teams, see below) others, like CoPs, are self-organized or under the control of individuals. For examples of how these and other collaboration types vary in terms of their temporal or boundary focus and the basis of their members' relationships, see Kietzmann et al. (2013).
In addition to the distinction between CoP and other types of organizational groupings found in the workplace, in some cases it is useful to differentiate CoP from community of interest (CoI).
Community of interest
Community of practice
Social capital is said to be a multi-dimensional concept, with both public and private facets (Bourdieu 1991). That is, social capital may provide value to both the individual and the group as a whole. Through informal connections that participants build in their community of practice, and in the process of sharing their expertise, learning from others, and participating in the group, members are said to be acquiring social capital – especially those members who demonstrate expertise and experience. While social capital and a community of practice are by no means synonymous, a community of practice may facilitate the development of social capital, enhance the structural dimension of social capital through connecting members and networks, and advance the relational dimension of social capital by maintaining trust and accountability among members.
Wasko & Faraj (2000) describe three kinds of knowledge: "knowledge as object", "knowledge embedded within individuals", and "knowledge embedded in a community". Communities of Practice have become associated with finding, sharing, transferring, and archiving knowledge, as well as making explicit "expertise", or tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is considered to be those valuable context-based experiences that cannot easily be captured, codified and stored (Davenport & Prusak 2000), also (Hildreth & Kimble 2002).
Because knowledge management is seen "primarily as a problem of capturing, organizing, and retrieving information, evoking notions of databases, documents, query languages, and data mining" (Thomas, Kellogg & Erickson 2001), the community of practice, collectively and individually, is considered a rich potential source of helpful information in the form of actual experiences; in other words, best practices.
Thus, for knowledge management, a community of practice is one source of content and context that if codified, documented and archived can be accessed for later use.
Members of communities of practice are thought to be more efficient and effective conduits of information and experiences. While organizations tend to provide manuals to meet the training needs of their employees, CoPs help foster the process of storytelling among colleagues which, in turn, helps them strengthen their skills on the job (Seely Brown & Duguid 1991).
Studies have shown that workers spend a third of their time looking for information and are five times more likely to turn to a co-worker rather than an explicit source of information (book, manual, or database) (Davenport & Prusak 2000). Time is saved by conferring with members of a CoP. Members of the community have tacit knowledge, which can be difficult to store and retrieve outside. For example, one person can share the best way to handle a situation based on his experiences, which may enable the other person to avoid mistakes and shorten the learning curve. In a CoP, members can openly discuss and brainstorm about a project, which can lead to new capabilities. The type of information that is shared and learned in a CoP is boundless (Dalkir 2005). Duguid (2005) clarifies the difference between tacit knowledge, or knowing how, and explicit knowledge, or knowing what. Performing optimally in a job requires being able to convert theory into practice. Communities of practice help the individual bridge the gap between knowing what and knowing how (Duguid 2005).
As members of communities of practice, individuals report increased communication with people (professionals, interested parties, hobbyists), less dependence on geographic proximity, and the generation of new knowledge (Ardichvilli, Page & Wentling 2003).
Communicating with others in a community of practice involves creating social presence. Tu (2002) defines social presence as "the degree of salience of another person in an interaction and the consequent salience of an interpersonal relationship" (p. 38). It is believed that social presence affects how likely an individual is of participating in a CoP (especially in online environments) (Tu 2002). Management of a community of practice often faces many barriers that inhibit individuals from engaging in knowledge exchange. Some of the reasons for these barriers are egos and personal attacks, large overwhelming CoPs, and time constraints (Wasko & Faraj 2000).
Motivation to share knowledge is critical to success in communities of practice. Studies show that members are motivated to become active participants in a CoP when they view knowledge as meant for the public good, a moral obligation and/or as a community interest (Ardichvilli, Page & Wentling 2003). Members of a community of practice can also be motivated to participate by using methods such as tangible returns (promotion, raises or bonuses), intangible returns (reputation, self-esteem) and community interest (exchange of practice related knowledge, interaction).
Collaboration is essential to ensuring that communities of practice thrive. Research has found that certain factors can indicate a higher level of collaboration in knowledge exchange in a business network (Sveiby & Simon 2002). Sveiby and Simons found that more seasoned colleagues tend to foster a more collaborative culture. Additionally they noted that a higher educational level also predicts a tendency to favor collaboration.
What makes a community of practice succeed depends on the purpose and objective of the community as well as the interests and resources of the members of that community. Wenger identified seven actions that could be taken in order to cultivate communities of practice:
Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. There are two types of action research: participatory and practical. Denscombe (2010, p. 6) writes that an action research strategy's purpose is to solve a particular problem and to produce guidelines for effective practices.
Action research involves actively participating in a change situation, often via an existing organization, whilst simultaneously conducting research. Action research can also be undertaken by larger organizations or institutions, assisted or guided by professional researchers, with the aim of improving their strategies, practices and knowledge of the environments within which they practice. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices.
Kurt Lewin, then a professor at MIT, first coined the term "action research" in 1944. In his 1946 paper "Action Research and Minority Problems" he described action research as "a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action" that uses "a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action and fact-finding about the result of the action".Ashgate Publishing
Ashgate Publishing was an academic book and journal publisher based in Farnham (Surrey, United Kingdom). It was established in 1967 and specialised in the social sciences, arts, humanities and professional practice. It had an American office in Burlington, Vermont, and another British office in London. It is now a subsidiary of Informa (Taylor & Francis).
The company had two imprints: Gower Publishing published professional business and management titles, and Lund Humphries – established over 60 years ago – publishes illustrated art books, particularly in the field of modern British art. In March 2015, Gower unveiled GpmFirst, a web-based community of practice allowing subscribers access to more than 120 project management titles, as well as discussions and articles relevant to business and project management.
In July 2015, it was announced that Ashgate had been sold to Informa for a reported £20M. It was announced in December 2015 that Lund Humphries has been relaunched as an independent publisher. By February 2016, the independent imprints of Ashgate became part of the Routledge imprint.Collaborative search engine
Collaborative search engines (CSE) are Web search engines and enterprise searches within company intranets that let users combine their efforts in information retrieval (IR) activities, share information resources collaboratively using knowledge tags, and allow experts to guide less experienced people through their searches. Collaboration partners do so by providing query terms, collective tagging, adding comments or opinions, rating search results, and links clicked of former (successful) IR activities to users having the same or a related information need.Community of action
A community of action (CoA), unlike a community of practice (CoP), exists in a situation that is structurally more open, where actors have the possibility of bringing about change. These more open situations might, for example, correspond to collective design teams in professional environments.
CoAs possess some of the characteristics of communities, such as the development of a common language and mutual learning in the course of action. However, they also possess some of the characteristics typical of more associative social relationships, such as the "voluntary" nature of association and the importance of "common goals" in directing collective activity. Some argue that this makes CoAs more "rational" groups than CoPs.Community of circumstance
A community of circumstance is similar to a community of practice, except that it is driven by position, circumstance or life experiences rather than a shared interest. Examples might include cancer sufferers using a support newsgroup or the members of gay/lesbian newsgroups. A prison or other correctional facility can be thought of as a community of circumstance; passengers of the same plane form a temporary community of circumstance as well.Community of position
A community of position is distinguished from a community of practice in that it tends to be more personally focused. Communities of position built around life stages (such as teenage years, university/college student years, marriage, or parenthood) provide individuals with the opportunity to build relationships with others during that particular phase of their lives.E-Learning Developers' Community of Practice
e-Learning Developers' Community of Practice or ElCoP is practice developed following a decision of European air navigation service (ANS) training providers together with Eurocontrol, to create an e-learning developers community of practice in January 2009.
The aims of this community of practice are: to share knowledge and information on e-learning development matters between its members; to develop common deliverables; and to improve Eurocontrol deliverables, such as the best practice documentation for e-learning development and the digital learning asset sharing platform.Games for Change
Games for Change (also known as G4C) is a movement and community of practice dedicated to using digital games for social change. It is also a sub-genre of the larger genre of serious games, along with other sub-genres such as newsgames and educational games. An individual game may also be referred to as a "game for change" if it is produced by this community or shares its ideals. "Games for Change" is also the name for the non-profit organization which is building the field by providing support, visibility, and shared resources to individuals and organizations using digital games for social change. The organization curates a continuously growing body of “digital and non-digital games that engage contemporary social issues in a meaningful way.”Information architecture
Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape. Typically, it involves a model or concept of information that is used and applied to activities which require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development.
Information architecture is considered to have been founded by Richard Saul Wurman. Today there is a growing network of active IA specialists who constitute the Information Architecture Institute.Knowledge community
A knowledge community is community construct, stemming from the convergence of knowledge management as a field of study and social exchange theory. Formerly known as a discourse community and having evolved from forums and web forums, knowledge communities are now often referred to as a community of practice or virtual community of practice. As with any field of study, there are various points of view on the motivations, organizing principles and subsequent structure of knowledge communities.Legitimate peripheral participation
Legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) describes how newcomers become experienced members and eventually old timers of a community of practice or collaborative project (Lave & Wenger 1991). LPP identifies learning as a contextual social phenomenon, achieved through participation in a community practice. According to LPP, newcomers become members of a community initially by participating in simple and low-risk tasks that are nonetheless productive and necessary and further the goals of the community. Through peripheral activities, novices become acquainted with the tasks, vocabulary, and organizing principles of the community's practitioners.
Gradually, as newcomers become old timers and gain a recognized level of mastery, their participation takes forms that are more and more central to the functioning of the community. LPP suggests that membership in a community of practice is mediated by the possible forms of participation to which newcomers have access, both physically and socially. In the case of a mentor-mentee relationship between older timers and newcomers, the old timer has both the power to confer legitimacy to the newcomer, and to control the newcomer's level of access to different community practices and experiences. If newcomers can directly observe the practices of experts, they understand the broader context into which their own efforts fit. Conversely LPP suggests that newcomers who are separated from the experts have limited access to their tools and community and therefore have limited growth. As participation increases, situations arise that allow the participant to assess how well they are contributing through their efforts, thus legitimate peripheral participation provides a means for self-evaluation (Lave & Wenger 1991).
LPP is not reserved for descriptions of membership in formal organizations or professions whose practices are highly defined. For example, O'Donovan and Kirk (Kimble & Hildreth 2008) suggest that young people's participation in sport can be compared to a Community of Practice related to physical education.
In his later work (Wenger 1998) on communities of practice Wenger abandoned the concept of legitimate peripheral participation and introduced the idea of a duality instead, however the term is still widely used in relation to situated learning.List of Wikipedia people
The list of Wikipedia people includes notable editors, founders and functionaries of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.Official function
An official function is either an event, such as a convention, that has an official purpose for one's employment, vocation or profession-whether run by a person, institution or governmental agency-or an official duty.
Attending events with official purposes is one of the duties of many persons in many organizations. Attending such events fall into categories of networking, protocol, information gathering, among others. Networking may involve an economic network, an entrepreneurial network, an old boy network, a social network, and a value network. Protocol deals with etiquette and other forms of intercultural competence that should be followed to show respect for those with whom one is networking. Information may be gained as a message, a pattern, or an input.
Attending events with official purposes helps one build an augmented social network, a community of practice, and a network of practice. Such attendance increases occupational competence and achievement.
Official duties are those performed to facilitate the achievement of one's assignments as an employee. They may include duties that are performed in a routine manner and duties whose performance demonstrates innovation and leadership. They may include duties that are commonly performed, and duties that must be performed because of new circumstances.Penelope Eckert
Penelope "Penny" Eckert (born 1942) is a professor of linguistics at Stanford University in Stanford, California, where she holds the position of Albert Ray Lang Professor of Linguistics. She is a prominent scholar of variationist sociolinguistics, and is the author of several scholarly works on language and gender. She served as the President of the Linguistic Society of America in 2018.Situated learning
Situated learning is a theory on how individuals acquire professional skills, extending research on apprenticeship into how legitimate peripheral participation leads to membership in a community of practice. Situated learning "takes as its focus the relationship between learning and the social situation in which it occurs".The perspective can be contrasted with alternative views of learning: "Rather than defining [learning] as the acquisition of propositional knowledge, Lave and Wenger situated learning in certain forms of social co-participation. Rather than asking what kinds of cognitive processes and conceptual structures are involved, they ask what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place".Speech community
A speech community is a group of people who share a set of linguistic norms and expectations regarding the use of language. It is a concept mostly associated with sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics.
Exactly how to define speech community is debated in the literature. Definitions of speech community tend to involve varying degrees of emphasis on the following:
Shared community membership
Shared linguistic communicationA typical speech community can be a small town, but sociolinguists such as William Labov claim that a large metropolitan area, for example New York City, can also be considered one single speech community.
Early definitions have tended to see speech communities as bounded and localized groups of people who live together and come to share the same linguistic norms because they belong to the same local community. It has also been assumed that within a community a homogeneous set of norms should exist. These assumptions have been challenged by later scholarship that has demonstrated that individuals generally participate in various speech communities simultaneously and at different times in their lives. Each speech community has different norms that they tend to share only partially. Communities may be de-localized and unbounded rather than local, and they often comprise different sub-communities with differing speech norms. With the recognition of the fact that speakers actively use language to construct and manipulate social identities by signalling membership in particular speech communities, the idea of the bounded speech community with homogeneous speech norms has become largely abandoned for a model based on the speech community as a fluid community of practice.
A speech community comes to share a specific set of norms for language use through living and interacting together, and speech communities may therefore emerge among all groups that interact frequently and share certain norms and ideologies. Such groups can be villages, countries, political or professional communities, communities with shared interests, hobbies, or lifestyles, or even just groups of friends. Speech communities may share both particular sets of vocabulary and grammatical conventions, as well as speech styles and genres, and also norms for how and when to speak in particular ways.Text Encoding Initiative
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a text-centric community of practice in the academic field of digital humanities, operating continuously since the 1980s. The community currently runs a mailing list, meetings and conference series, and maintains an eponymous technical standard, a journal, a wiki, a GitHub repository and a toolchain.Virtual community of practice
An online community of practice (OCoP), also known as a virtual community of practice (VCoP), is a community of practice (CoP) that is developed on, and is maintained using the Internet. To qualify as an OCoP, the characteristics of a community of practice (CoP) as described by Lave and Wenger must be met. To this end, an OCoP must include active members who are practitioners, or "experts," in the specific domain of interest. Members must participate in a process of collective learning within their domain. Additionally, social structures must be created within the community to assist in knowledge creation and sharing. Knowledge must be shared and meaning negotiated within an appropriate context. Community members must learn through both instruction-based learning and group discourse. Finally, multiple dimensions must facilitate the long-term management of support as well as enable immediate synchronous interactions.To some, a VCoP is a misnomer as the original concept of a CoP was based around situated learning in a co-located setting. However, with increasing globalization and the continued growth of the Internet many now claim that virtual CoPs do exist (e.g. Dubé, Bourhis & Jacob, 2005; Murillo, 2006; Zarb, 2006; Hara & Hew, 2007; Murillo, 2008). For example, some claim that a wiki (such as Wikipedia) is a virtual CoP (Bryant, Forte & Bruckman, 2005), others argue that the essence of a community is that it is place-based – a community of place.
There is also debate on the very term since the community is real though the form of communication is mostly, if not entirely, computer-mediated. Few believe that a community of practice may be formed without any face-to-face meetings whatsoever. In fact, many leading CoP thinkers stress the importance of such meetings. However some researchers argue that a VCoP's high use of ICT, changes some of its characteristics and introduces new complexities and ambiguities, thus justifying the creation of the term and area of study (Kim, 2004; Zarb, 2006).
Some of the other terms used have been (in chronological order) online (Cothrel & Williams 1999), computer-mediated (Etzioni & Etzioni, 1999), electronic (Wasko & Faraj, 2000) and distributed (Hildreth, Kimble & Wright, 1998). Wenger et al., 2002; Kimble & Hildreth, 2005. As the mode of communication can involve face-to-face, telephone and letter, and the defining feature is its distributed nature. For a comparison between Virtual Learning Communities (VLCs) with Distributed Communities of Practice (DCoP), see Couros & Kesten (2003).
Recent research has produced evidence that increases in the sharing of tacit knowledge, which is very much inherent within CoP theory, may take place, albeit to a lesser degree, in a VCoP scenario even though such systems make use of written word (Zarb, 2006). This is spurring interest in what is sometimes referred to as community-driven knowledge management or community-based knowledge management, where CoP and VCoP theory is harnessed, nourished and supported within the broader organisational setting.Wikipedia – A New Community of Practice?
Wikipedia: A New Community of Practice? is a 2009 book by British historian Dan O'Sullivan. The book takes an academic approach to Wikipedia, applying the ideas of theorists like Jürgen Habermas, Michael Warner, and Roland Barthes.