“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” (Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, 2015). According to the authors, communities of practice have a shared domain of interest and members who engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, and ways of addressing recurring problems - i.e. a shared practice through sustained interaction over an extended period.
In a world where fast-evolving digital technologies constantly drive the need for new skills, communities of practice can offer enabling environments for continuous learning and engagement. Active, diverse, and inclusive communities of practice facilitate innovation and collaboration. We help to set up and support communities of practice.
Over the past few years, we have been involved in establishing new communities of practice in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa. We continue to learn about the implications of contextual differences and how communities differ and want to work with clients to bring our knowledge and experience to new communities.
We also learn from experts in community development, such as the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE). Below we show the CSCCE Community Participation Model which “describes four modes of community member participation, CONVEY/CONSUME, CONTRIBUTE, COLLABORATE, and CO-CREATE, as well as a fifth “super user” mode, the CHAMPION mode”.
Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement. (2020) The CSCCE Community Participation Model – A framework for member engagement and information flow in STEM communities. Woodley and Pratt doi:10.5281/zenodo.3997802
Open and inclusive communities that welcome new members and value input from diverse contributors are becoming increasingly important in the research and data science worlds. We have been members of various communities for several years and can introduce clients to existing, welcoming communities that will provide support throughout the learning journeys. We also offer support and guidance in terms of the practices and processes of these communities to ensure expectations on both sides are managed and met.
Developing and supporting active and inclusive communities of practice requires time, a conscious effort, financial support (or contributions in kind) and other resources. We have many years of experience in supporting the development and growth of communities. Through understanding your community, we can introduce useful tools, practices and resources to support, sustain and grow it.