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What is a Community of Practice?

A Community of Practice (CoP) is a community of professionals with a shared practice who learn from each other by sharing information and expertise on an ongoing basis in order to improve that practice. CoPs are a rapidly growing and cost effective strategy for creating systematic change - within organizations and across a field - through professional development and knowledge development and management. CoPs incorporate a variety of tools and formats for learning, including meetings, teleconferences, presentations, emails, listserv, one-on-one "backchannel" conversations, surveys and more. CoPs allow for open channels of communication across organizations, staff positions, divisions, and geographical regions.

Graph of formal vs. informal learning -- workers learn more informally.

Communities of practice help members to overcome knowledge sharing barriers by building an environment of trust and mutual respect. When these elements are present, members are more likely to be open, take risks and be transparent, which, in turn, results in greater and deeper learning. A community facilitator works with members to define shared goals and guidelines for the community in order to create a network of support and encouragement for ongoing professional development and innovation.

CoP Member Benefits

CoP Sponsor Benefits

Barriers to Knowledge Sharing

The stages of community development.

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