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Organisational and Professional Development

About Communities of Practice (CoP)

This page will provide you with information about what a community of practice is, what they do and how they can help you flourish at Queen Mary.  You can also find out about existing Communities of Practice.

If you would like to develop or restart a Community of Practice, our toolkit will help:

Communities of Practice Toolkit [PDF 266KB]

What are Communities of Practice?

"a group of people who engage in collective learning in a common area of interest" (Wenger: 1998)

Hannah Brown, Events Manager, talks about the Queen Mary Events Community of Practice

Sam Astley, Planning Manager, talks about the Data Analysts’ Community of Practice

In general, communities of practice consist of a group of people with a common sense of purpose who agree to work together to share information, build knowledge, develop expertise and solve problems. The primary purpose being learning.

Communities of practice (CoP) are cultivated and nurtured rather than formally managed.

Communities have three important dimensions:

  • Purpose - the community’s aim as understood by its members
  • Domain - members are engaged in related activities or projects
  • Output - published and unpublished resources, events and discussions developed or sourced by community members

What do Communities of Practice do?

CoPs provide a forum to:

  • Problem solve
    “Can we work on this design and brainstorm some ideas; I’m stuck.”
  • Request/Collate information
    “What websites/articles do you find useful on…?”
  • Seek experience
    “Has anyone dealt with x before?”
  • Reuse resources
    “I have a proposal for x I wrote for y last year. I can send it to you and you can easily tweak it.”
  • Coordinate
    “Can we combine our purchases of y to achieve bulk discounts?”
  • Build an argument
    “How do people in other depts do this? Armed with this information it will be easier to convince y to make some changes.”
  • Grow confidence
    “Before I do it, I’ll run it through my community first to see what they think.”
  • Discuss developments
    “What do you think of the new system? Does it really help?”
  • Document projects
    “We have faced this problem five times now. Let us write it down once and for all.”

Communities of Practice can support Professional Services Transformation by:

  • Supporting development, including career development, by providing exposure to different skills and roles
  • Breaking down silos and increasing collaboration across areas
  • Encouraging innovation and continuous improvement
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