In Intrac Praxis Note 16 (available in English and Spanish), Brenda Bucheli and Gabriela Romo describe some of the outcomes of a workshop on communities of practice held in Mexico at the beginning of this year. The participants were from SNV, PACT and IMAC. The workshop defined a community of practice as a group with a 'common learning interest, aimed at establishing long-term learning processes, innovation, the improvement of practice and the strengthening of relationships between members. It analyses success factors in 5 areas from getting started to incentives. It stresses the building upon existing relationships, knowing who the members and their strengths are and that focussing on the themes of interest does not necessarily commit members to joint action or a formal constitution. Motivation to participate can be strengthened by concrete products like cases or guides, as well as trainings or workshops.
In the appendices, the five cases are summarised: they vary from corporate CoPs (SNV), to a inter-organisational CoP of civil society organisations (IMAC), to a CoP of M&E professionals. At SNV a team works to promote the CoP, which is key to the success, and work programmes can become very ambitious. IMAC and PACT found that the existence of a webpage that recorded the history of the CoP made it easier to integrate new members. EVALperu concludes that it is not indispensable to have external funding. (here members pay a subscription for running costs). IMAC concludes that it's indispensable to contract someone specifically to promote exchange and learning between members, connect and follow-up. Also that organisations with sufficient resources to cover their own operations are more able to participate in the CoP.
Overall, most seem to be relatively formalised with mention of constitutions, internal rules and operational plans. Unfortunately, there are no reflections on the cultural adaptation of the concept, but the conclusion is that CoP provide interesting ways of promoting learning within and between organisations on a larger scale.