What is a community of practice?
A community of practice is a group of people who share a common concern, are facing similar issues, or are striving to reach similar goals.
Participation in a community of practice is voluntary. Members should feel free to share their experiences and knowledge in free-flowing discussions, ask questions of one another, foster new approaches to problems, and work together to define best practices.
Lave and Wenger first coined the term, ‘community of practice’ in Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. The authors proposed that learning is fundamentally a social process and that communities create the social fabric necessary for collective learning. According to Wenger (1998), communities of practice provide five critical functions:
- Educate by collecting and sharing information related to questions and issues of practice.
- Support by organizing interactions and collaboration among members.
- Cultivate by assisting groups to start and sustain their learning.
- Encourage by promoting the work of members through discussion and sharing.
- Integrate by encouraging members to use their new knowledge for real change in their own work.
Harvard Business Review describes communities of practice as the ‘hidden fountainhead of knowledge development and therefore the key to the challenge of the knowledge economy’.
The Business for Biodiversity platform is setting up multi-sector communities of practice, where business leaders can build and share knowledge on how to protect nature and promote biodiversity. The platform will provide infrastructure, coordination and support for each community, while the knowledge, agenda and outcomes will be driven by the members.