You could say that a community of practice ( within an organization ) is “A channel for knowledge to flow and a means to strengthen the social fabric in an organization".

The concept of a community of practice (often abbreviated as CoP) refers to the process of social learning that occurs and shared sociocultural practices that emerge and evolve when people who have common goals interact as they strive towards those goals.

The term was founded on the work of a few cognitive anthropologists, namely Barbara Rogoff (1985) and Jean Lave, who attempted to explain and describe learning that occurs in apprenticeship situations. Later, Lave, in collaboration with Etienne Wenger (1991) originated the construct legitimate peripheral participation in their studies of five apprenticeship situations: midwives in the Yucatan, Vai and Gola tailors, naval quartermasters, meat cutters, and a group of alcoholics anonymous. From their development of legitimate peripheral participation, they created the term community of practice to refer to communities of practitioners into which newcomers would enter and attempt to acquire the sociocultural practices of the community. - Wikipedia

So how does this benefit you?

Building a community of practice within your organization is a great way of connecting people who need knowledge with the people that have it. They also act as an excellent mechanism to collect and disseminate information to a large audience.

This leads to :

  • Faster resolution of problems
  • Greater proliferation of thoughts and ideas
  • Ability to harness a multitude of individuals to provide different perspectives
  • Personal development for individuals
  • Building knowledge networks


There are just some of the benefits of leveraging a CoP correctly.

In order to maximize the use of a CoP a careful balance of leadership and freedom needs to be given to the community to promote sharing of ideas and knowledge, as a lack of leadership or direction could seriously damage the usefulness of the CoP in the long run. This means ensuring that you have a core members identified whose responsibility is to monitor the health of the CoP and step in when needed.