I don’t know if it was my love of Taylor swift, or the never-ending ‘squad’ talk circling the Internet at present. But this weeks topic immediately had me thinking of Swift and her empowering girl squad, or if we are using the term (very) loosely her CoP.
Anyway, back on topic…
An online community is a virtual team or a group of individuals connecting through the technology that has evolved from Web 2.0’s collaborative nature. Technologies like social media and the Internet facilitate these groups, allowing them to discuss and engage with topics that interest the group as well as have discussions, offer opinions and collaborate.
Communities of practice (CoPs), defined by Bardon and Borzillo (2016, p. 11) as “groups of individuals who share a common interest in a specific topic and gain knowledge about such a topic by practicing long enough together. Essentially, CoPs are formed by people to engage in collective learning. For example, I am part of a Facebook group for another university paper. Members are there due to our shared interest in the paper, project management. To become a member must request permission to gain access to the closed group before engaging with one another by sharing content, asking questions or providing feedback. Admins of the group provide structure to the group, keeping the posts relevant and the group active.
Three characteristics are often used to clarify the difference between a CoP and community, these are:
- Domain: a CoP is not simply a group of individuals, for it to be more than a community there must be a shared domain of interest. Individuals may have no personal connection to one another, but are united through their mutual field of interest. The domain leads members to gain a sense of identification, creating commitment to the community and the value of one another’s shared expertise.
- Community: to maintain their domain, members of a CoP must interact and actively learn from one another. This involves engaging with each other but conducting discussions, participating in activities and sharing information. This builds relationships between members, enabling joint learning and connectivity.
- Practice: members of a CoP are often referred to as practitioners, because in addition to shared interest the also have a shared practice. The members come together and share resources, experiences, tools, advice and stories – exchanges that are the foundation of these communities.
CoPs and orgs
Initially used in relation to learning theory, the concept of CoPs is now being readily adopted by organisations. The evolution of the knowledge economy has seen businesses gain a greater understanding of knowledge as an asset that needs to be strategically managed. CoPs provide an effective approach to utilising this asset, by focusing on the social structures that foster learning and increased knowledge.
Bardon, T., & Borzillo, S. (2016). Communities of practice: control or autonomy?. Journal Of Business Strategy, 37(1), 11-18. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/eds/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=f13da2b6-a642-42e3-bccb-de9fd354fbc6%40sessionmgr107&hid=108&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=112047727&db=heh
Bates, Tony. (2014, October 1). The role of communities of practice in a digital age. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/01/the-role-of-communities-of-practice-in-a-digital-age/
Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/