What is the value proposition for a community of practice?

The whole purpose of community is enabling people to help each other.

Vkw.studiogood [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The primary vision of Community is a group of people who help each other.  This might be an Amish community raising a barn, pooling their strength and skills to help each other.  Or it might be a rural community pooling their money to fund a village hall, or to buy a village pub in order to keep it running.

In the case of a Community of Practice (CoP) it is a community of practitioners in a specific area of practice, who pool and share their knowledge in order to create a greater knowledge base as a resource for all members.

The value proposition of a CoP is therefore to increasing the effectiveness of its members through access to common and co-created knowledge.  By making the community members more effective though access to common knowledge, the organisation becomes more effective.  The value proposition is therefore firstly to the members, and as a byproduct to the organisation.

A community does not necessarily hold a collective performance objective with the business (although come communities voluntarily choose to do so) but allows each member to deliver better against his or her own individual performance objectives, by giving them access to the knowledge base of the community. 

Specifically the community offers

  • Help in solving problems 
  • Faster learning through observing interactions between others
  • Access to experience and expertise 
  • Access to proven practices 

Membership of a CoP should pay its way. If you don’t get benefit from being a member, then the CoP is not working. Many communities have voluntary membership on this basis, and it serves as a self-regulating mechanism.

  • If the community adds value to the members, the old members stay, new members join, and membership grows.
  • If the community does not add value to the members, then members leave and the community dies.

If the community becomes effectively a blog run by a single person, it’s not working as it should, and it has become a teaching platform or a communication platform and not a community.

If a community is only a means of publication of news, its a newsletter and not a community.  Communities can use newsletters, but are not created by newsletters.

If a community is concerned only with doing tasks such as writing best practice documents, its a virtual workgroup and not a community.

It’s a community if the members hold their knowledge in common, using it to solve each others’ problems, and therefore delivering value to the members.

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