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Community of Practice

A "Community of Practice" (CoP) is an effective, evolved form of collaborative community. Across the University there are numerous groups dedicated to sharing technical information and best practices. Both well-established groups, such as UNITS, and newer ones like the dedicated Service Oriented Architecture CoP could be considered to be Communities of Practice.

Interested members of the University community can find out what specific IT topics are being discussed at Northwestern and how to join the conversation by visiting the Communities of Practice Directory. Existing University groups that would like to be included in the directory should submit a support request (NetID required).

“Community” the Key Concept

A group becomes a community when many individual members have sufficient group and one-on-one experience to develop trusted relationships and easy communication. Relationships and common topics create community - something greater than the individual members themselves - and attracts others.

Community Dynamics

Practice can also include a set of frameworks, ideas, tools, information, styles, language, stories, and/or documents community members share.

Community Members

Creating a Community

Creating and building a community is not formulaic; it is an organic process unique to each group. Because of this, Northwestern does not have one single process for creating a community.

However, there are many collaborative tools available at the University to help facilitate community functions including:

Each CoP should have a primary and secondary community organizer that manage scheduling and coordinating content for the community to discuss. These organizers can also be points of contact for answering questions or suggesting discussion topics. Members of the University community interested in creating a CoP, but not quite sure where to start, can submit a support request (NetID required) requesting CoP consultation.

At the beginning of a community it is imperative to find enough common ground among members for everyone to feel connected and see the value of sharing insights, stories, and techniques. Seeing that other people face similar problems, share a passion for the same topics, have data, tools, and approaches they can contribute, enables valuable insights and learning.

Additional Community of Practice Information

This material describes a sophisticated means for an organization to grow and steward knowledge important to their operations. Much of the material on this web page is sourced from the excellent book: Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Wenger, Etienne; McDermott, Richard A.; Snyder, William (2002-01-08) Harvard Business School Publishing. Most material is paraphrased and adapted; some sentences are verbatim extracts from the book. Please consider purchasing this book and using it to inform your community efforts.

Last Updated: 31 January 2017

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