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WEEK 1 - (h) COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE

 

What are the critical aspects that we need to consider? I guess the organizational setting of the CoP is one key thing that comes to my mind. Do members come from the same organization, or to what extent are there similarities amongst their backgrounds? This certainly has an impact on the level of trust they have towards each other, which is a prerequisite for them to engage in the CoP, in addition to a certain level of common interest. In our case, "common interest" has proven to be, not so enough... (Fangzhou Liang)

 

In my experience, aligning the interest of the sponsoring agencies in supporting CoPs and those of members of the community is a major challenge. Often organisations start CoPs or online platforms with an idea in mind that is not necessarily what brings people together and draws on their common interests and practice to make them active and learn from each other. On the other hand, I believe that the institutional backup is important and a major role that knowledge organisations such as FAO and, with few exception, I do not see CoPs being led on a voluntary basis, so the issue of sustainability is central. (Renata Mirulla)

 

I'm passionately interested in the huge potential of CoPs - if only we could get them fully recognised and supported by funders, multilaterals and larger organisations. All global trends - including the current pandemic - point to the need to rely less on international face-to-face conferences and to use virtual comms much more than we currently do. We currently have a glut of webinars and zoom meetings - all very well, but these are not nearly as inclusive and interactive as CoPs. We need a similar growth in CoPs, while avoiding duplication and fragmentation. I'm also very keen to see how CoPs can communicate and coordinate better among ourselves, not just in health but across all areas of development. Collectively we shall have maximum impact. (Neil Pakenham-Walsh)

 

When it comes to CoPs, one key aspect is the critical mass. The latter is extremely important when the CoP is thematic, and not time- or event- bound. In my experience a thematic community with at least 300 members is likely to have sufficient internal drive to keep on rolling. Still, looking at statistics of even larger communities I have been animating, close to 90 % of the members are reading, and not contributing, the so-called lurkers. Only a handful are actively contributing. Years ago, I run a questionnaire among members of one dproup with ~1500 members, to find out more about the reasons behind being active (contributing) or not.
Interestingly, many respondents indicated that they were not comfortable in / used to sharing their thoughts “publicly” being concerned about other members judging them based on the content of their contributions / opinions or event based on the correctness of their syntax or spelling. Once I shared the results of the survey among the members of the community, some lurkers became contributors, probably because they discovered that their concerns were common concerns, hence their sentiments were not so different from those of other community members, and they felt more comfortable in being active. (Guacomo Rambaldi)

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