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Communities of practice

Last updated: 2022-05-23

What is a Community of practice (CoP)?

Taken from Wikipedia:

A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who "share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly".

Starting your own CoP

There are no rules or processes for creating a new CoP, even if it is a niche topic. A good approach for creating one would be to gauge interest in the wider Infinity Works community, as well as having an informal plan for how it would be run. You could also take some guidance from other successful communities.

Active CoPs

  • Business analysis: For discussion of BA tools and skills.
  • Communication: For those interested in organising, discussing, practising and delivering talks.
  • Data modelling: A place to discuss data modelling best-practise, especially with regard to modelling inside a Data Warehouse.
  • Data operations: For those involved or interested in DataOps and Data Engineering topics.
  • Design and research: For those involved in, or interested in design and research.
  • Delivery: For those involved in the delivery community to come together, including delivery leads and scrum masters.
  • Engineering: For engineers of all shapes to start discussions and ask for help, whether it is related to work or personal projects.
  • Mobile: For mobile-focused engineers to discuss all things mobile.
  • Security: For anyone interested in security, and who wish to discuss current trends and incidents.
  • Testing: For test engineers/consultants to discuss software testing and what it means at Infinity Works.

A list of our active CoPs and their associated Slack channels can be found here.

Cultivating successful CoPs

This section has been taken from the same Wikipedia page.

What makes a CoP succeed depends on the purpose and objective of the community as well as the interests and resources of the members of that community. Étienne Wenger identified seven actions that could be taken in order to cultivate CoPs:

  1. Design the community to evolve naturally Because the nature of a community of practice is dynamic, in that the interests, goals, and members are subject to change, CoP forums should be designed to support shifts in focus.
  2. Create opportunities for open dialog within and with outside perspectives While the members and their knowledge are the CoP's most valuable resource, it is also beneficial to look outside of the CoP to understand the different possibilities for achieving their learning goals.
  3. Welcome and allow different levels of participation Wenger identifies 3 main levels of participation.
    1. The core group who participate intensely in the community through discussions and projects. This group typically takes on leadership roles in guiding the group.
    2. The active group who attend and participate regularly, but not to the level of the leaders.
    3. The peripheral group who, while they are passive participants in the community, still learn from their level of involvement. Wenger notes the third group typically represents the majority of the community.
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces While CoPs typically operate in public spaces where all members share, discuss and explore ideas, they should also offer private exchanges. Different members of the CoP could coordinate relationships among members and resources in an individualized approach based on specific needs.
  5. Focus on the value of the community CoPs should create opportunities for participants to explicitly discuss the value and productivity of their participation in the group.
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement CoPs should offer the expected learning opportunities as part of their structure, and opportunities for members to shape their learning experience together by brainstorming and examining the conventional and radical wisdom related to their topic.
  7. Find and nurture a regular rhythm for the community CoPs should coordinate a thriving cycle of activities and events that allow for the members to regularly meet, reflect, and evolve. The rhythm, or pace, should maintain an anticipated level of engagement to sustain the vibrancy of the community, yet not be so fast-paced that it becomes unwieldy and overwhelming in its intensity (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder 2002).