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Key Concepts

“Community”  the Key Concept

To begin, we need to create a common understanding for what we mean by  “Community” in reference to a “Community of Practice”.

“Community” is a state of existence of a group of people.  A group reaches that state when many individual members have sufficient group and one-on-one experience with several other members to develop trusted relationships and ease of communication. The inter-relationships and common topic creates ‘Community’ - something greater than the individual members themselves - and that attracts others.  Achieving the state of ‘Community’ is not formulaic, it is an organic process unique to each group. 

The ‘Community’ section below provides some known effective approaches, but the relative proportions of use to achieve ‘community’ will vary with the dynamics of each group.

In this document ‘group’ and ‘community’ will be used interchangeably; ‘Community’ will be used to refer to a group that has reached that state.

One other pointer before diving into this guide

You may feel somewhat overwhelmed as you read through the rest of the 'Key Concepts' material. You may think, “hey, I just wanted to continue a discussion we started at the unconference, this is way more than I bargained for.”  

This material describes a sophisticated means for an organization to grow and steward knowledge important to their operations.  You by no means are expected to take on all that is described here.  We’ll support you in using the pieces you need to make the effort you have in mind successful. And, if your effort turns out to grow beyond your expectations, you – or other group members - can come back to us for more help.

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Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge

Materials in the "Key Concepts" and "Creating a CoP" areas of this site are principally sourced from the excellent book: Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Wenger, Etienne; McDermott, Richard A.; Snyder, William (2002-01-08) Harvard Business School Publishing. Most material is paraphrased and adapted; some sentences are verbatim extracts from the book.  We encourage you to purchase and use this book to inform your community efforts.