Tuesday, May 18, 2010

KSGhana: Communities of practice and how can it be useful

The purpose of this session was to introduce to the participants the concept of Community of Practice. Again, Lucie made an introductory presentation introducing the concept of community of practice. This was followed by few questions that were given to the participants for group discussion:
  • Are you part of a formal/informal community? Do they work? Why do they work?
  • Can FAO as an organization or you in your specific area benefit from encouraging the formation of COPs?
What can stimulate participation in and success of communities of practice?
  • When a lot of participants bring their knowledge and share it with the rest of the community
  • Creation of a core group that supports the COP in addition to ensuring appropriate facilitation
  • When participants have a common sense of purpose
  • When they are seen as source of support - getting feedback or answers to problems/questions
  • When participants think they can support others with their knowledge
  • When regular summaries are provided as a follow-up to discussions
  • When there is appropriate language and technological support
  • Bringing people together for a face-to-face interaction on occasion
  • Participants are recognized and given visibility for their inputs
  • Financial guarantee is available for the COP
In terms of the organization, the main issues with COPs were seen as:
  • there is already too much demand on staff time
  • lack of funding (for facilitation, face-to-face meetings, etc.)
  • lack of facilitation training and support
It was also observed that FAO staff would in general benefit from participating in external COPs. They would not only bring FAO's knowledge to the community but also gain from the external perspective of participants.

COPs are vital for knowledge sharing but the organization needs to support its staff by giving them time to participate in communities. In case where FAO needs to create and lead a community, financial support also needs to be provided.

So, is secret to successful COPs - $$, facilitation and core group? In that order?

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