As a wide and diverse network of communities and individuals, Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) holds a rich treasure of knowledge and experience amongst its members. To create more space for cross-learning within the network, sharing best practices, and refining our regenerative cultures, we – the team in GEN and GENOA – plan to develop the model of “Community of Practices” (CoPs). Before inviting network members to join these CoPs, we would like to share with you what we mean by it. This article aims to do just that, and stay tuned to receive more information from the GENOA team about CoPs.
What is Community of Practice (CoP)?
Community of Practices – CoPs 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-Trayner, 2020)
A community of practice defines itself along three dimensions, that mutually influence each other and should be kept in balance.
This is the area of shared interest, topic or issue that the community cares about. The domain needs to be negotiated with the stakeholders of the CoP and evolves alongside the context and community.
This is a group of people who build personal relationships and learn together through discussions, activities and regular interactions. Enough common ground and diversity makes for richer learning, more interesting relationships and increased creativity. Community members can take on different roles to maintain and nurture the CoP, all communities change in structure as they grow. In a community of practice, the focus extends beyond the needs of the group. There is an intentional commitment to advance the field of practice, and to share those discoveries with a wider audience. A CoP often makes their resources and knowledge widely available especially to those doing related work.
This is the body of knowledge, methods, skills, stories and tools being developed. The practice covers frameworks, and documentation of ideas, experiences, lessons learned.
Communities develop their practice through a variety of methods, including problem-solving, requests for information, seeking the experiences of others, reusing assets, coordination and synergy, discussing developments, visiting other members, mapping knowledge, and identifying gaps. Successful practice building goes hand in hand with community building.
The functions of a CoP may be any one or more of the following :
Connect people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, either as frequently or at all.
Provide a shared context for people – particularly peers – to communicate and share information, stories, and personal experiences in a way that builds understanding and insight.
Enable dialogue between people who come together to explore new possibilities, solve challenging problems, and create new, mutually beneficial opportunities.
Stimulate learning by serving as a vehicle for authentic communication, mentoring, coaching, and self-reflection.
Capture and share existing knowledge to help people improve their practice by providing a forum to identify solutions to common problems and a process to collect and evaluate best practices.
Introduce collaborative processes to groups and organisations as well as between organisations to encourage the free flow of ideas and exchange of information.
Provide a space for experimentation that can be self-organised and decentralised.
Generate new knowledge to help people transform their practice to accommodate changes in needs and technologies.
Break down silos and create shared value.
Community of Practice is being applied popularly in organizations, companies, communities and networks. For example, you can find CoP on Holacracy, on NVC – Nonviolent Communication, Reinventing Organization and others.
As you’ve seen, Community of Practices are rooted in the willingness to join, to share, and to learn together as a network. Therefore, anyone can look into starting a community of practice and fuel it with passion, openness, and a moderate level of coordination.
In GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network in Oceania and Asia), we intend to develop a Community of Practice on Fundraising as a learning hub to explore ways to sustain the network and bring resilience to the community movement in the region. The information about Community of Practice on Fundraising will be communicated to you in the coming weeks. Once the experience with this first CoP sinks in, we will look into developing CoP in other topics – we are open to hear any suggestions from the network as well.
Let’s pave a way to learn and evolve together!
About the Author
Thao Kin. Networking Coordinator, GENOA
Thao Ngo, often called by her friends and colleagues as Kin, is a learner and educator from Vietnam. Kin is passionate about ecology and is on a long exciting quest of her life learning from and caring for Mother Earth. Kin has been a member of NextGENOA since 2016 and joined the GENOA Office team in mid-2020. In addition to her active role in GENOA and NextGENOA, Kin works with non-governmental organizations in Vietnam in organizing and facilitating training on ecological education and eco-lifestyle. Kin believes in the power of reconnection and re-enchanting the world. She is learning to be a Deep Ecology facilitator and trainer.
Cover Image by: Hanna Kim, CC BY-SA 4.0