Communities of Practice Guide
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The 5 Phases of CoPs
Phase #1 Define | Phase #2 Design | Phase #3 Grow | Phase #4 Perform | Phase #5 Transform
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The Roadmap is a guide to creating, reinvigorating or transforming a community of practice. Where is your CoP now? Where would you like to be? Remember, it may be best to navigate your CoP journey as a group or at least with a few group members. Questions from the CoP Roadmap can form the basis of a survey sent to CoP members for feedback.
Phase 1: Define \/
Whether just starting a CoP or reenergizing an existing CoP, it helps to start with a definition. The definition of your CoP will steer every major decision you make for and regarding your community. In some ways it is like a vision or mission statement. The action steps below will help you define your CoP. Remember – it may be best to reflect and plan as a group.
Define your community
• Who are members of your group?
• Does your group have important stakeholders (i.e. funding or leadership roles)?
• How will community roles be defined (individuals, groups, group leaders, community administrators, etc.) and who will take them on?
Define your shared interest
• What is your group’s shared interest?
Define your practice
• What is your shared practice?
Define your purpose
• What is your group’s primary purpose?
• What specific needs will the community be organized to meet?
• What are the benefits to group members and stakeholders?
Phase 2: Design \/
Once you have a clear sense of identity, it’s time for your CoP to get busy. It is important that members of your CoP engage with one another in some meaningful way to swap stories, resources, and expertise. Your CoP design will determine member commitment and overall culture of your community.
• What kinds of activities will generate energy and support the emergence of community presence?
• What kinds of interactions (with each other and with the content of the community) will generate energy and engagement?
• Can you award members for outstanding contributions to your shared domain? Or award them for service to the CoP?
Design CoP Communication
• How will members communicate on an ongoing basis to accomplish the community’s primary purpose?
• How will community members collaborate with each other to achieve shared goals?
Design shared resources
• What are the external resources (people, publications, reports, etc.) that will support the community during its initial development?
• How will members share these resources and gain access to them?
Phase 3: Grow \/
By this phase you already have a general sense of who your CoP members are, the overall vision and purpose of your CoP and you have designed some activities and modes of communication. Now that there is a general sense of rhythm, it’s time to consider expanding!
Grow your community culture
• What is your CoP culture? The tone?
• Which members are engaged in the activities and communications that have been designed? How are they engaged?
• How are your CoP members viewed by non-members?
Grow your CoP Brand
• Are members of your group fun/playful/energetic? Or are your shared interests more serious?
• How does your brand/image share this?
Grow your CoP membership
• How will potential members learn about your CoP?
• What would you like them to know about your CoP?
• How do new members join? Become oriented?
• How do new members move into leadership roles?
Phase 4: Perform \/
Maybe you have just started your CoP – you’ve had a few meetings and you are working on building a website. Or maybe your CoP meets regularly and you see room for greater impact for both members and the public. How can you create and sustain a cycle of participation and contribution?
Perform with rhythm
• What kinds of community activities will generate energy and engagement and support the emergence of community “presence” (activities, communication, interaction, learning, knowledge sharing, collaboration, roles and social structures)?
• What is the emerging cycle of events/activities in your CoP?
Perform your Goals
• What work products can members contribute to support individual and community goals?
• What are the emerging benefits of the community for members, subgroups, the community as a whole, the community’s sponsors, and other key stakeholders?
• How do members get recognized and rewarded for their contributions?
• How does the community demonstrate return on investment (ROI) for its sponsor(s)? It’s members?
Phase 5: Transform \/
Perhaps you have enjoyed the fruits of your CoP design & growth processes. Maybe you are meeting regularly with substantial involvement. Suddenly, a key stakeholder or resource is removed – how can your CoP adapt to new circumstances? Does your CoP need to change? Or is it time to consider retiring your CoP?
• How do members the join, participate, lead and exit the community?
• How are new potential community leaders (official and unofficial) going to be identified, chosen, developed, and supported by the community?
Transform your purpose
• To what extent is the community serving its intended audience and accomplishing its stated purpose and goals? How might it do a better?