KT Alberta
A community of practice for health-related knowledge translation

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evidence conneKTion

What is a Community of Practice? Pt 1

One of the central goals of KT Alberta is to develop a community of practice for knowledge translation practitioners in Alberta, particularly focused on healthcare. There has been an immense paradigm shift where health, once regarded in isolation, has found itself woven into the fabric of almost all disciplines. Health continually grows to include more considerations for factors and systems governing the social determinants of health and the way in which they affect wellbeing and life in general. Similarly, academic and practical disciplines are embracing collaboration in common interests. As such, there is a growing need for strategic and purposeful exchange, sharing and collaboration.  This is where communities of practice may serve useful, especially for specialties involved in Knowledge Translation.

What is a community of practice?

Wenger (2011) defines communities of practice as “groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Communities are everywhere. Everyone who lives in society belongs to various formal and informal communities. Sometimes we participate at the margins of these communities, and sometimes we are at the center of the action.

When members share a common concern, practice or project, they are often called communities of interest. But communities of practice differ from communities of interest in three main ways (Lave & Wenger, 1998):

1. The subject, realm or what it is about. It’s a mutual project, shared by any number of people. Membership requires that you have certain level of expertise.

2. How members engage. As they pursue the project, members of the CoP participate in group activities, discussion and learning by sharing their skills and knowledge with  each other towards moving their practice forward.

3. How members do their work. Members share a practice and through the CoP develop relationships to collaborate with others in the same domain.

These relationships are created over time, through common processes, including sharing resources, best practices, case studies, etc. Wenger (2011) says it is the combination of these three elements that makes a CoP.

Tell us about a Community of Practice that you have.

How did it work out?

Was it useful?