(This definition reflects the fundamentally social nature of human learning. It is very broad. It applies to a street gang, whose members learn how to survive in a hostile world, as well as a group of engineers who learn how to design better devices or a group of civil servants who seek to improve service to citizens.)
We're going to describe things from our individual perspectives. Others in the room may have different perspectives and we want to start a debate to continue toorrow. We believe that the trends of inclusiveness, value and collaboration are already happening with the emergence of CoPs. In some respects, there is a long way to go with each of these 'trends', and they are difficult to measure and thereofre to underpin with firm data (with exceptions such as internet connectivity and mobile phone ownership data). Moreover, it is vital that the international community supports the acceleration of these three trends. CoPs have the potential to make a huge impact on international development, provided there is strong political and financial commitment to promote their inclusiveness, value and collaboration.
Communities of Practice - Increasing inclusiveness, value and collaboration? Real trends or wishful thinking?
Real trends or wishful thinking?
Neil Pakenham-Walsh & Ivan Kulis
(with thanks to Adrian Bannister)
What are CoPs?
“A community of practice is a group of people who share a
concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how
to do it better as they interact regularly.”
• Virtual CoPs with a focus on international development,
health and social justice.
• Some virtual CoPs work towards an agreed shared vision,
eg HIFA (‘Community of Purpose’).
• For the purpose of our presentation, the term CoPs does
• project teams
• groups that are exclusive (eg groups whose
membership is largely or wholly confined to a single
organisation or professional group)
Virtual CoPs in international devt
• For the purpose of our presentation, we are looking
especially at transparent, virtual CoPs that are open to
• Transformational - transcend organisations, geographical
location, and professional status.
Virtual CoPs in international devt
Examples of CoPs
KM4Dev (Knowledge Management for
HIFA (Healthcare Information For All)
Pelican (Evaluation and communication in
(The above are examples of Dgroups, but there are many
other platforms, non-commercial & commercial)
Why are CoPs important?
Sustainable Development Goals:
“This Agenda is a plan of action for people,
planet and prosperity… All countries and all
stakeholders, acting in collaborative
partnership, will implement this plan…”
Trends or wishful thinking?
We think these trends are actually happening and that they are hugely
important. We propose them to start a discussion and debate to continue
tomorrow. You may or may not agree. You may want to propose different
Vital for the future not only of CoPs, but for international development
CoPs have the potential to make a huge contribution to international
development, provided they are supported and enabled towards inclusiveness,
value and collaboration.
● Increased connectivity
● Increased mobile phone ownership
● Increased social interaction and knowledge sharing
● Political commitment to increase inclusiveness
● More and more people will be able to participate in CoPs
● Increase in knowledge sharing, joint knowledge
production, content curation, etc.
● Ability to hear voices that currently can not be heard
● Increasing sophistication on machine translation and
● Access does not mean inclusiveness
● Psychological barriers to participate in an online CoP (eg.
● “Social” and CoPs could be perceived as a political threat (Arab
● Personal and professional reticence to express political views in
● CoPs are mainly in English
● Technical barriers will remain
Inclusiveness: call for action
● Support CoPs towards greater inclusiveness
● Enable all global citizens to contribute to international
development and social justice, regardless of their
language, professional status, educational level, and
2. Increasing value?
● Increasing value to
○ CoP participants
○ Global partnership for sustainable development (SDGs)
● M&E is improving (although still very difficult)
● Increasing value to
○ CoP participants ⇒ enhance social and personal learning + personal
○ Organisations ⇒ capture tacit knowledge + corporate visibility and
○ Global partnership for sustainable development (SDGs) ⇒ catalyse
multidisciplinary collaboration + inform policy making
Increasing value to
CoP participants ⇒ lack of time to read and engage +
difficulty to find the relevant CoP
Organisations ⇒ for administrators: lack of courses on online
CoP management skills + CoP open nature can be
Global partnership for sustainable development (SDGs) ⇒
fragmented ecosystem meaning that we are unable to
function collectively + lack of research on the impact of
Call for action
CoPs committed to gathering evidence of
• Member needs
• Explicit added value
• Online CoP management practices that work
in specific contexts
We should support CoPs through
Research on CoPs impact
Providing courses on online CoP management
3. Increasing collaboration?
- Collaboration within CoPs
- Collaboration among CoPs
- Growing global ‘culture of
The emergence of CoPs is a new and exciting
phenomenon in an increasingly connected world.
Collaboration among all stakeholders in international
development and social justice is possible, including
and especially those who are currently excluded and
disadvantaged. This has the potential progressively to
improve international development policy and practice.
The current ecosystem of CoPs is highly fragmented and their
number is increasing, with much duplication and overlap.
There is no easy way for individuals to identify the CoP that
might be most useful for them. Once one is a member of a
CoP it is not always easy to identify potential collaborators
from among the other members.
Triangle of public sector, private sector and civil society
Political and commercial influences against true
collaboration for vested interests
Call for action:
• Communities of practice:
- promote inclusiveness, value, collaboration
- global map of CoPs
- demonstrate impact
• Organisations and funders to embrace the potential of
CoPs and provide an enabling environment for CoPs to
reach their full potential.
CoPs have a huge unrealised potential to contribute to
Three important contributions: Increasing inclusivneness,
Increasing value, Increasing collaboration
We have outlined some of the trends, challenges and
opportunities we see for the future of CoPs. There are
doubtless many others that we haven’t thought of. We look
forward to your comments and suggestions.