Communities of Practice: a brief introduction by Etienne Wenger.
Etienne Wenger is the originator of the term “communities of practice,” although he concedes the social act it names is quite old:
The term “community of practice” is of relatively recent coinage, even though the phenomenon it refers to is age-old. The concept has turned out to provide a useful perspective on knowing and learning. A growing number of people and organizations in various sectors are now focusing on communities of practice as a key to improving their performance.
This brief and general introduction examines what communities of practice are and why researchers and practitioners in so many different contexts find them useful as an approach to knowing and learning.
What are communities of practice?
Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope. In a nutshell:
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.
Note that this definition allows for, but does not assume, intentionality: learning can be the reason the community comes together or an incidental outcome of member’s interactions. Not everything called a community is a community of practice. A neighborhood for instance, is often called a community, but is usually not a community of practice.
Etienne’s post is a good summary of his work with pointers to additional resources if you are interested in the details.
For any number of circumstances, but particularly professional activities, I suspect the term “community of practice” will resonate with potential users/customers.
Not for actual encounters with clients but good training for the same:
Do you think interpretative communities or communities of practice are more useful in developing a model to be represented as a topic map? Why? Choosing one, discuss how you would develop such a model? (Who you would ask, what you would ask, etc.)