HIVAIDS Portal/Community of Practice

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Communities of Practice

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.(Wenger's definition)

  • Domain
  • Community
  • Practice
  • Resources
  • Improving Performance

Wenger Theory

Distinctions - Traditional Communities vs. Community of Practice (CoP)


  • Geographically bound
  • No shared domain of interest
  • No shared practice

How is Practice developed in a Community?

  1. Problem solving - "Can we work on this design and brainstorm some ideas; I'm stuck."
  2. Requests for information - "Where can I find the code to connect to the server?"
  3. Seeking experience - "Has anyone dealt with a customer in this situation?"
  4. Reusing assets - "I have a proposal for a local area network I wrote for a client last year. I can send it to you and you can easily tweak it for this new client."
  5. Coordination and synergy - "Can we combine our purchases of solvent to achieve bulk discounts?"
  6. Discussing developments - "What do you think of the new CAD system? Does it really help?"
  7. Documentation projects - "We have faced this problem five times now. Let us write it down once and for all."
  8. Visits - "Can we come and see your after-school program? We need to establish one in our city."
  9. Mapping knowledge and identifying gaps - "Who knows what, and what are we missing? What other groups should we connect with?"

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Theorising Models of Practice

  1. requires practitioners themselves taking the lead in inquiry of their work
  2. best practices developed collaboratively, and shared and refined continuously over generations
  3. community of practice thus develops models of practice by research that generates knowledge
  4. the ability of a community to leverage on this knowledge is contingent on its power in a field of practice (Bourdieu) - hence we come into the sociological realm, where issues of power, structure and agency will ultimately determine the fate and evolution of a community
  5. this enables us to act strategically to prioritise and facilitate the growth and learning of communities that can affect the shape of society over time in reducing HIV, advancing human rights and social justice, and ending poverty

Latest research articles

Getting CoPs going

  1. Build membership. Phone people who might be interested in the domain and ask them who else they know that is interested in the domain and what are the key challenges the domain faces. Recruit people to help the coordinator - the core team for the domain. Organise a face-to-face meeting to launch the community.
  2. Establish a rhythm of activity. Get the discussion list working actively. Set a regular time for meetings/teleconferences.
  3. Focus on action. Ask the group what they think is important to the domain. What things would make the most difference in their domain? What things are they interested in working on? Note: this last question is likely to get very different answers than the previous questions. Use the action oriented model for community development.
  4. Collect success stories. Use a few key metrics as indicators, but not too many. Ensure the workload to collect them is low. Do not make the indicators into targets. Consider using Net Promoter score as an indicator.