Create a Community of Practice

Starting a Community

Building a community is a hugely rewarding experience – opening everyone involved to exciting engagement opportunities often not available through other channels.

If you are interested in creating a CoP, here are a few simple principles to help get you started!

CoPs as collaborative bodies

Communities of Practice are a bit different from typical committees and other formal working groups. If you have not already done so, take a quick moment to check out our guide on what makes CoPs tick.

Who can create new communities? (Spoiler: You!)

If you are a practitioner of a specific subject with an infectious enthusiasm for both spreading knowledge and learning from peers – then you are empowered with everything it takes to start a CoP!

Any staff or faculty member can create a community. In fact, all communities currently active at UA simply started from an individual (or individuals) who worked in a specific topic area and wanted to share their experiences with colleagues.

CoPs are about value

Creating a new CoP is an exciting opportunity to find colleagues within the campus community just as plugged in on a particular topic as you are. When starting a community, always think if it as an experiment.

As you work to develop a group, you will discover whether there is enough established interest in the subject for ongoing collaboration. When collective value is high – it will usually be easy to maintain a continued dialog and participants. If a group struggles a bit and doesn’t last – that is perfectly acceptable outcome. It is ok to retire a topic and try again later!

How often do communities meet?

In order to make sure a community keeps a healthy ongoing dialog, an established meeting structure is required. This doesn’t have to be a huge commitment, and specific schedules look very different community to community – based on the needs of each group.

Some CoPs meet monthly; others three times a year. Some meet in person; others may meet digitally. The key is simply maintaining an ongoing dialog series so that members can continue to benefit from the value of each other’s participation.

Membership policies

Given the very specific subject-material nature of Communities of Practice, many groups will have membership policies to make sure the quality of interaction remains high and on topic. Far from being exclusive, this provides great opportunities for creating adjacent communities to existing CoPs – each with their own directed focus.

Where do I begin?

Each Community of Practice must be coordinated by at least one facilitator. This could be you!

Potential facilitators should have infectious enthusiasm for the subject (see ‘Who can create new communities?’ section above) and be willing to take on the role of coordinating ongoing dialogs for their group. Before starting a community, it is also a great idea to already have in mind a few interested colleagues who will be on board as you get things going.

Also know that we are here to help! CoP Facilitators meet regularly and will help you discover organizational tips and tricks while also allowing the larger group to learn from your organizing experiences. These dialogs also help us discover what new tools and resources to develop for future communities.

If this sounds like a great fit, we would be delighted to hear from you!