Communities of practice: A concept to consider for CGIAR research programsSep 26th, 2011 | By Simone Staiger | Category: Knowledge Management, Tools & Methods
Notes from Etienne Wenger’s key note at the Share Fair in Rome
What about reading this post thinking about Communities of practice as a way of working within CGIAR research programs? Makes sense, right?
Etienne starts his keynote about what he is learning and invites us to participate. “I don’t have any answers but I can engage with you in a conversation about what it means”.4 chairs are ready in the center of the room for us to jump in, ask, be part of his key note.
Communities of practice as a partnership
” My name is associated with CoPs.” CoP’s is only one aspect of Knowledge Sharing (KS) but I would claim that somehow the idea of a CoP is in the heart of KS. It has to do with a sense of partnership. It’s like the story of personal partnerships that lead to marriage: Find a person and over time, realize this is a partner for me. Like in a personnel relationship CoPs start slow. The first phase in CoPs is to recognize who we are to each other. This engenders the commitment to sustain the partnership, which is a place where you don’t have to hide the dark corners. Getting others to recognize the partnership, that’s what knowledge sharing is about
Communities of PRACTICE
It’s difficult to actually talk about the practice instead of how things should be. Practice is messy. In Cops, people ultimately recognize each other as learning partners in practice. Can I count on you to answer my question? Cops require to learn on your part and on the part of the community.
Key #1 factor of success: Have “social artists”
Organizations tend to “procedurize” things so processes are independent from the people who do the work. CoPs don’t work that way, they depend on the engagement and the art on how to create these learning spaces. Key success factor #1 is to have what I call “Social artist”. People who lead CoPs need the community for themselves. Train people to become a champion is difficult.
Key #2 factor of success : Have “transversal people”
Our R4D work requires passion. On the other side, politics and bureaucracy are present. There are tensions between the noble mission, the natural engagement of practitioners in the field and the bureaucracy and politics. CoPs are at the cross road of 2 systems of accountability: the horizontal system of partners in practice (peer to peer) and the vertical system. So, another key success factor is to have transversal people, who can live between the 2 systems. We have to learn how to get better at that. We need to create transversal conversation.
CoPs put strategies in practice
CoPs are at the heart of the strategic question of what are the key domains that will make our organization successful. CoPs do strategic work because they are a way of placing the development of strategy capabilities in the hand of practitioners. The question is: What is our strategy. Who are the communities who put it into practice? What do these communities need to get good at? What capabilities do they need to develop? You could do training, you can also create CoPs and have capabilities developed through conversations.
CoPs are not a knowledge sharing device. If they are considered a device, they are handled at low levels of management and not connected to the strategic thinking of an organization.
See also Sophie Alvarez’ post on the Communities of Practice Clinic session at the Share Fair