Communities of Practice: Encouraging Participation
A community connects and brings people together. In order to foster community, social connections need to be created that encourage participation and nurture relationships.
The activities and success of a community of practice are dependent on the participants being willing to:
- share ideas
- expose their knowledge gaps
- ask difficult questions
- listen carefully
Online communities of practice involve both synchronous and asynchronous interactions. In order to keep members actively engaged with the community 'creating a sense of presence' is essential.
Having an initial face-to-face meeting at the beginning of the project can create a valuable opportunity for participants to get to know one another and develop working relationships as well as clarify the purpose of the community.
The outcomes of an initial face-to-face session can include:
- Helping participants discover common areas of interest
- Reviewing goals for the community
- Creating common understandings and process
- Creating the opportunity for participants to understand and explore the technologies that will be using in the community.
Online meetings and Collaboration
There is a number of ways in which communities of practice can thrive in virtual environments. The accessibility and shareability technology offers can lead to:
- Increased visibility to a network of individuals with expertise
- The seamless use of information in practical and productive ways, such as the sharing and storing of content and updates
- Opportunities to work collaboratively on projects through online platforms, including group webinars and workshops
- A working process through which members can contribute to resource or content building
- A place for individuals who may otherwise miss out on taking part in face-to-face meetings
In a community of practice, all participants are both learners and teachers, regardless of their role or levels of experience. Participants in communities of practice should be open to new ideas and to learn from others. Communities of practice should foster a culture of collaboration and openness.
Regular communication with community members will help cultivate and encourage participation. Emails can be sent out ahead of meetings to serve as gentle reminders. Meetings and other activities can then be followed up by another email, summarising what has been discussed, sharing additional resources, and encouraging members to use the shared collaborative space. Surveys can be used to inform future activities and receive feedback on previous activities.
It is important to keep up regular and consistent communications. It might not always be possible to meet online or in-person on a regular basis but consistent communication will help maintain engagement. Emails can be used to draw attention to new activity on the share collaborative space and encourage other members to contribute.
Contents of this guide are available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 unless stated otherwise.
This guide has been adapted from Creating Communities of Practice by Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC) which is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.