Communities of practice have become an accepted part of organizational development. One should pay attention to domain, membership, norms and rules, structure and process, flow of energy, results,
Communities of practice have become an accepted part of organizational development. One should pay attention to domain, membership, norms and rules, structure and process, flow of energy, results, resources, and values.
1. The views expressed in this presentation are the views of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian
Development Bank, or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included
in this presentation and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this presentation do not imply any
view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.
A Guide to Communities of
2. Define:Community of Practice
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for
something they know how to do and who interact regularly to learn
how to do it better. They enhance learning and empower people in
their work. They have become an accepted part of organizational
One of the challenges of development is how to access and share tacit
knowledge. Tacit knowledge needs must be transmitted by special
Learning organizations build CoPs, leverage them with effect, and link
them to networks of practice.
The simple act of joining and being regularly involved in organized
groups has a very significant impact on individual health and well-
3. The Value of Communities of
Short-Term Value to Members
• Help with challenges
• Access to expertise
• Fun with colleagues
• Meaningful work
Short-Term Value to Organization
• Problem solving
• Time saving
• Knowledge sharing
• Synergies across units
• Reuse of resources
Long-Term Value to Members
• Personal development
• Professional identity
• Collaborative advantage
Long-Term Value to Organization
• Strategic capabilities
• Keeping abreast
• Retention of talents
• New strategies
4. Basic Structure of Communities of
The core group manages the CoP based
on an agreed coordination mandate. It
provides secretarial support as
The inner circle serves as a
steering committee with an
informal structure, meeting
once or twice a year. (Individual
members may contact the core
group on demand.
The outer circle embraces
contributors, and readers in a
5. Functions of Communities of
• Organizing and managing information that is worth
paying attention to
• Taking new, little-known, or little-understood
ideas, giving them weight, and making them more
• Offering a means to give members the resources
they need to carry out their main activities
• Bringing together different, distinct people or
groups of people
• Promoting and sustaining the values and standards
of individuals or organizations
• Helping members carry out their activities more
efficiently and effectively
6. Elements of Communities of
The balance of formal and informal relationships. Hierarchy is not an
important element to CoPs. Most CoPs crosslink organizational units
The definition of the area of shared inquiry (thematic orientation)
and of the key issues that relate to it.
The relationships among active members and the sense of belonging
that these give them.
The priority that Management ascribes to the CoP, with resource
implications. It defines the sector or thematic focus and the expected
results. It opens the space for self-commitment by members.
The personal interest and priority that members assign to the CoP in
their daily work.
The body of information and knowledge, e.g., methods, stories,
cases, tools, documents, and associated know-how. Each member
has a practice in the domain, which other members recognize.
7. Designing and Managing
a Community of Practice
8. Starting a Community of Practice
Set the Strategic
A strategic context
lets a CoP find a
legitimate place in a
Articulate a strategic value proposition.
Identify critical development challenges.
Articulate the need to leverage knowledge.
CoPs are a familiar
staff members need
to understand how
the new CoP fits in
Conduct workshops to educate management and potential
members about the CoP's approach.
Help staff members appreciate how CoPs are inherently self-
defined and self-managed.
Establish a language that legitimizes the CoP and establishes
its place in the host.
9. Starting a Community of Practice
Cultivate the CoP
quickly to create
early examples that
allow staff members
to learn by doing.
Gather the core group to prepare and initiate the launch.
Interview prospective members to understand issues,
discuss the community, and identify potential leaders.
Identify areas where there is readiness and potential.
Help members organize initial value-adding activities.
Get a few pilots going as soon as possible.
Encourage members to steward their knowledge.
A host must have
processes to include
the CoP, while
respecting its roots
in personal passion
Integrate the CoP in the business processes of the host.
Identify and work to remove obvious barriers.
Align key structural and cultural elements.
10. Starting a Community of Practice
CoPs can use light-
Identify needs and define adequate infrastructure without
undue reliance on complex technology.
Provide process support, coaching, and logistic assistance.
see the value of
working as a
community but may
feel the host is not
aligned with their
Value the work of the CoP.
11. Passing the Fitness Test
• Is the area of shared inquiry, the key issues that relate to it, and the
function of the CoP strategically relevant to the host?
• Are the topics of interest to all members?
• Do all members have their own practice in the domain?
• Is the relevant experience on board?
• Is the heterogeneity of the members assured?
• Is the CoP open to new members and advertised as such?
• Are roles and accountabilities defined in a common agreement?
• Are both distant contacts and face-to-face meetings possible?
• What is the balance between giving and taking among members?
Norms and Rules
12. Passing the Fitness Test
• Is the chosen structure clear and flexible enough?
• Are key roles in the core group defined, e.g., manager, facilitator, and
• Is the step-by-step work planning process open and transparent?
Structure and Process
• Do members care about common interests, commitment, and trust?
• Are there regular face-to-face events? Are social moments celebrated?
• Is the history of the CoP alive and shared with new members?
Flow of Energy
• Is delivering and reporting on tangible results a common concern?
• Do members draw direct and practical benefits from their involvement?
• Are results officially recognized by the host?
13. Passing the Fitness Test
• Do members have sufficient time for the CoP?
• Is the host willing to provide time, space, and incentives?
• Is CoP facilitation attractive and stimulating?
• Is listening to others a cardinal virtue?
• Are members willing to give without immediate return?
• Is diversity in thinking and practice validated?
14. Critical Success Factors
• The domain is of strategic importance to the host.
• The host recognizes knowledge management and learning as
• The CoP and its host share common values.
• The results are relevant and beneficial for the host and its staff
An organization is ready to host a CoP (and allocate
resources to it) if:
15. Critical Success Factors
• A domain that energizes the core group and inner circle
• Skillful and reputable managers and facilitators
• Involvement of members
• The details of practice are addressed
• Right rhythm and mix of activities
• Strategic relevance of the domain
• Management sponsorship (without micro-management)
• Judicious mix of formal and informal structures
• Adequate resources
• Consistent attitude
• Clearly delineated function
• Capacities, skills, resources, and systems match function
16. Asking, Learning, and Sharing
Working in Teams As a Community
I ask questions.
Inquiring minds are
We check first to
see what already
Every Single One
We share experience,
learning to make
We connect and
We review lessons
as we go and apply
I share personal
details, roles, and
17. Further Reading
• ADB. 2008. Building Communities of Practice. Manila.
• ADB. 2009. Building Networks of Practice. Manila. Available:
• ADB. 2008. Creating and Running Partnerships. Manila.
• ADB. 2009. Learning in Strategic Alliances. Manila. Available:
18. Further Reading
• ADB. 2011. InFocus: Communities of Practice. Manila.
• ADB. 2011. Survey of ADB-Hosted Communities of Practice.
Manila. Available: www.adb.org/documents/2011-survey-
• ADB. 2011. Surveying Communities of Practice. Manila.
19. Further Reading
• ADB. 2011. ADB Resources for Communities of Practice:
Creating Value through Knowledge Networks. Manila.
• ADB. 2011. Timeline of ADB-Hosted Communities of Practice.
Manila. Available: www.adb.org/publications/timeline-adb-
• ADB. 2011. Communities of Practice 101. Manila. Available:
20. Further Reading
• ADB. 2011. ADB-Hosted Communities of Practice—Driving
Knowledge Activities. Manila. Available:
• ADB. 2011. Empowering ADB-Hosted Communities of Practice.
Manila. Available: www.adb.org/publications/empowering-
• ADB. 2012. Communities of Practice: Passing the Fitness Test.
21. Further Reading
• ADB. 2012. Communities of Practice: Passing the Fitness Test.
• ADB. 2011. The Empowerment of ADB-Hosted Communities of
Practice. Manila. Available: vimeo.com/92214511
• ADB. 2011. What CoPs Do. Manila. Available:
23. Olivier Serrat
Principal Knowledge Management Specialist
Regional and Sustainable Development Department
Asian Development Bank