A revolution in the sharing of knowledge…

Transforming e-Knowledge  
TABLE OF CONTENTS     Infrastructures, Processes, Capabilities, and Cultures
© SCUP 2003
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Processes, Communities of Practice, and Culture (continued)


Chapter 5

Infrastructures, Processes, Capabilities, and Cultures

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An Old Form, Elevated by Recent Forces. Communities of practice have existed for centuries. Commercial organizations, professional societies and trade associations, philanthropies, civic organizations, government agencies, non-profit organization, and other entities have displayed community of practice characteristics over centuries of development. But the strategic importance of communities of practice has been elevated in recent years by several interdependent forces:

  1. The power of technology-supported interactivity to enable community participants to engage with one another and with knowledge resources anytime, anywhere, at greater speed, with greater ease, and in ways that change relationships;
  2. The technology-supported capacity to assemble, synthesize, share, repurpose, and experience knowledge in new ways through communities of practice;
  3. The capacity of communities of practice to deal with the fusion of “head, heart, and hand”—inquiry, interaction, and craft (Wenger, et al, 2002); and
  4. The emerging understanding that communities of practice can lead to genuinely new patterns of organizing work and learning and new relationships, not just more efficient versions of the old.

Over the next five years, these forces will enable communities of practice to attain even higher planes of accomplishment and significance in meeting the needs of knowledge stewarding and sharing. The amenity experienced in tomorrow’s communities of practice will make current practice seem primitive.

Domain, Community, and Practice. These three elements shape how a community of practice functions and how it links to the practice shared by members of the community. The body of knowledge developed by a community of practice and made available for sharing externally will become increasingly valuable.

Three Elements Shape a Community of Practice
Domain of Issues   Community   Practice

Creates common ground and a sense of common identity.


Creates the social fabric for learning.


A set of frameworks, ideas, tools, information styles, stories, and documents that community members share.

Legitimizes the community by affirming purpose and value.


Foster interactions and relationships built on mutual respect and trust.


The practice is the specific knowledge the community develops, shares, and maintains.

Inspires members to contribute, guides learning and gives meaning to their actions.


Encourages willingness to share ideas, expose one’s ignorance, and listen.


When a community has been established for some time, it expects its members to have mastered the basic knowledge of the community.

Knowing the boundaries and leading edge of the domain defines what is worth sharing and to recognize the value in emerging, half-baked ideas.


Learning is a matter of belonging as well as intellectual activity involving the heart and the head


Body of shared knowledge and resources enables the community to proceed efficiently in dealing with its domain.

Adapted from: Wenger et al., Cultivating Communities of Practice, 2002

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