Benefitting from CoPs

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Benefitting from CoP: Members' Insights KM4Dev Brainstorm: "How do you personally benefit from being an (active or passive) member of a community of practice?"

Contributions: Valerie Brown, M Jahangir, Jaap Pels, George de Gooijer, Romana Benisch, Josef Hofer-Alfeis, Silvia Sperandini, Martine Poolman, Tony Pryor, Ueli Scheuermeier, John Gray, Charles Dhewa

I. Communities of PRACTICE as opposed to Communities of KNOWLEDGE

COPs are about DOING things in new and innovative ways and learning in a peer-exchange way of learning as opposed to instructional learning. And that is - as we are discovering over and over again - the prerequisite for learning in complex systems such as just about anything to do with rural development. We might also say COPs actually nurture the ART of a particular competence. Competence defined as knowledge plus the skills and connections to actually make a difference in the real world. So either I DO it, and I SHARE it with the other doers, or I will not benefit from being a member of a COP. What I get out of COPs - as opposed to reading up on published documents etc. - is that I get to walk the talk by exchanging with others who actually DO things, not just study and describe them. Probably the most beneficial COPs I've ever experienced were those that didn't make a big fuss about it but just got o with the business of sharing experience, insights and ideas about how t actually get things done. (Ueli Scheuermeier)

II. Benefits AFTER joining -- Benefits seasoned CoPers know they will get:

  • trust in the expertise of peers who “do”
  • peers / fun people / great gigs
  • sense of companionship from common interests
  • mutual help and cooperation
  • challenges from critical friends advancing your work
  • wide variety of topics
  • methods (and peers to practice on)
  • experiments and innovation
  • tips / memory / off load knowledge / reference
  • enriched knowledge
  • identification and transfer of leading / best / next practice* synergy from building on each others' ideas
  • working on a larger canvas gives us a lot of strength to know what others are doing
  • basing work on members’ experience and knowledge and getting advice at the right time
  • having additional capacity at hand that shares (at least to some extent) the concepts you are working with and is therefore easy to integrate in your own activity if you need them
  • helps to sharpen your imagination
  • helps you to build confidence
  • benefits related to the strengthened connections and partnerships (for pro-poor development and development operations)
  • in case of a starter it is an asset to see where to start from
  • wonderful source for research purposes
  • improvement and standardization of processes and solutions
  • information exchange and further education
  • lobbying and organizational positioning of the joint knowledge area and the related roles
  • you see what is keeping other people busy and are reminded of the many and varied fields of Knowledge Development that exist
  • as long as the COP really DOES solve their problems and does so in time to actually allow them to use that solution NOW, the cost/benefit should be very clear

III. Critical points:

  • active knowledge sharers vs knowledge consumers (‘copycats’, ‘free riders’)
  • CoPs are frequently used for personal marketing purposes
  • if managed badly, COP do not always and in every instance solve new members' problems
  • inviting somebody new into a COP with the implied expectation that their questions will be addressed can be counterproductive if the COP is not much more than a senior seminar chat among the already-initiated
  • sometimes inputs are relevant, sometimes they are less relevant to individual members
  • sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring or even both at the same time
  • many members focus on knowledge sharing tools but I haven't seen as much discussion about what you want to achieve through use of those tools adn if the tools are "correct" or not. This is probably because the manner of knowledge sharing and the issues discussed (as email over the list show) are so varied that it becomes impossible to valu everyone's use of tools. To me, this is very interesting to see.

IV. Recommendations:

  • for first time sceptics, keeping it focused on solving their problems at a very simple, direct level. Then if that interests them, lay out these

This entry was summarised by Christina Merl on [1]