Paper Analysis: “Building Communities of Practice that work: a case study based research”


Corso, M., & Giacobbe, A. (2005). Building Communities of Practice that work : a case study based research. The Sixth European Conference on Organizational Knowledge, Learning, and Capabilities, 1–20.


The paper provides a model which describes the evolution of a community of practice in terms in its effectiveness in supporting learning and knowledge management processes.

CoPs Literature:

  • scientific literature provides several defintions of CoPs but they all highlight the role the community has in enabling and facilitating knowledge creation and sharing that allows its members to learn and develop their competencies (ability to do something successfully)
  • Dominant definition of CoPs: “a group of individuals who share a common interest, a set of problems or a passion and who increase their knowledge and the understanding of these aspects through interpersonal relationships”
  • 3 characteristics of a CoP
    • Domain
    • Community
    • Practice
  • situated learning
  • legitimate peripheral participation
  • five stages of community development:
    • Potential – start as loose network that hold potential of becoming more connected
    • Coalescing – as member build connections, they coalesce into a community
    • Maturing – the community grows in both membership and the depth of knowledge members share
    • Stewardship – when mature, communities go through a cycle of low and dhigh activity. During this stage, communities often take active stewardship of the knowledge and practices they share and consciously develop them
    • Transformation – the purpose of the community may change as members’ interests, needs change or the community may desolve

Research Questions

  1. What are the stages of evolution of a community in terms of effectiveness in the learning and knowledge management process?
  2. Which are the levers that better allow the organisations to enhance members’ involvement and participation in the community?
  3. Which are the levers that allow a single community to obtain resources and legitimization towards the organisation?


  • case study research
  • three best practices chosen from secondary resources
  • seven longitudinal case studies
  • empirical research

Data Gathering Methods

  • documentation about the company was analyzed
  • semi-structured interviews with key informant people and community coordinators, leaders or core group members
  • community’s output dcumentation was analyzed to understand the kind of knowledge and the domain complexity
  • online tracking of the community’s activities

An Evolutionary Model

  • the proposed model is characterized by two fundamental dimensions
    • Organization’s Commitment
    • Member’s Involvement and Participation
  • Organization’s Commitment (level of involvement of the organisation in which the community lives in supporting its activities) – 3 levels of commitment:
    1. Hostility – indifference (-1)
      • doesn’t know the existence of the community
      • doesn’t recognise andy usefulness
      • doesn’t approve its existence
      • doesn’t give any resources to the community
      • negative value damages the community
    2. Partial Support (1)
      • organization recognizes some usefulness in the knowledge management and learning processes of the community
      • few economical resources are allocted
    3. Active Support (2)
      • the organization recognises the community as an important and fundamental instrument to supporting learning and managing knowledge
      • organization gives the community its own budget
  • Members’ Involvement and Participation (three levels of involvement and participation of the members in the community’s activities:
    1. Hostility (-1)
      • members perceive the community irrelevant
      • community is seen as a loss of time
      • participation in activites is limited
      • no interpersonal relations between members
      • knowledge is not shared
      • communities activities are obstructed or boycotted
    2. Limited Participation (1)
      • members acknowledge the community as something useful to increase their knowledge
      • most members participate passively in the communities activities, observing and listening to what is happen without participating actively
      • a limited number of members are particularly active and conscious of belonging to a community showing respect and mutual engagement
    3. Active Involvement (2)
      • members see participating as the main way to increase their knowledge
      • most members are involved in the communities activities
      • strong interpersonal relations
      • reciprocal trust
      • mutual engagement
      • belonging to a community is one of the most relevant aspects of their professional identity for members

Animation and Promotion Levers

  • an organisation can foster members involvement and participation by
    • improving the individual involement (personal value and identification)
    • enhancing social relations
    • improving the connectivity between members
    • improving the communality (the existense of a common ground that enables information and knowledge sharing
  • when a community wants to acquire new resources in order to be more effective in pursuing its goals, its should put its efforts into
    • increasing its visibility
    • cultural foundation
    • aim achievement





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