Paper Analysis – “Communities of Practice – An Overview (2003)”


Nickols, F. (2003). Communities of Practice An Overview. Distance Consulting, 6. Retrieved from


  • Definition: Communities of Practice are groups that form to share what they know and to learn from one another regarding some aspects of their work.
  • Example of first CoP: Copy machine repair technicians at Xerox Corporation – through networking and sharing their experiences, problems they encountered and the solution they devised, the efficiency and effectiveness of efforts to diagnose and repair customers copy machiest improved
  • Communities of Practice is where best practices and innovations first emerge and where the solutions to shared problems are first identified
  • They can’t be mandated or managed in a heavy-handed way
  • The business case for CoPs – for a quite modest investment in terms of today’s resources, organizations can reap huge rewards in terms of tomorrows results
  • The two types of CoPs in organisations are:
    • Self-Organizing
    • Sponsored
  • Sponsored CoPs have 3 major objectives:
    1. To enable colleagues to learn from one another through the sharing of issues, ideas, lessons learnerd, problems and solutions, research findings and other relevant aspects of their mutual interest
    2. To more broadly share and better leverage the learning that occurs in the CoP with others
    3. To generate tangible, measurable, value added benefits to the business
  • The key roles and responsibilities associated with a sponsored CoP are
    • Champion
      • provides enthusiasm & energy for organising meetings and communications
      • chief organiser of events
      • administrator of communications
    • Members
      • interact with each other
      • sharing information, insights, experiences, particpating in discussions, raising issues and concerns
      • participate actively to learn and to share their learning
    • Facilitator
      • responsible for clarifying communication, drawing out the reticent, ensuring the dissenting points of view are heard and understood, posing questions to further discussion and keeping discussion on topic
    • The Practice Leader
      • acknowledged leader of the CoP
      • leadership based on competence
      • leadership can shift as the issues and concerns of the CoP shift
      • practice leader emerge, they cannot be appointed
    • Sponsor
      • communicates the company’s support for a sponsored community ]
      • they may help to remove barriers that obstruct community progress (e.g. time, finding etc)
      • instrumental in establishing the mission and expected outcomes of the community

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