How to start a Community of Practice

You’ve decided to take the plunge. You have an idea of what you want to achieve, and you know there are people out there who feel the same. Yes, you’re definitely going to do it, the time is right, there is no going back – you’re going to start up a Community of Practice.

Congratulations! The first step to starting a CoP is admitting it. The second is to have a quick chat with someone from the Co-Creation Network Support Team – in person, over the phone or over email, whichever suits you. We’re here to help you get your CoP up and running in the practical sense, and also help your ideas emerge about your CoP, how to invite members and build relationships with them.

Next, you will need to register with the Co-Creation Network website and we’ll create the virtual space on this website for your CoP to use. These virtual spaces are private, in that only the members of the CoP can view the forum conversations and documents saved within it, so your CoP’s content is protected from search engine results. The person named as the Facilitator (often that is the person starting up the CoP but not always), is made administrator for this virtual space so they have editing rights for the space and can approve membership requests to it – Lucy will send you a step by step guide on how to do this (it’s dead easy).

While all this is going on, we will send you some start up docs which will guide you through setting up your CoP, inviting members and how to define your domain and core statement. Take a look at them here:

Start Up docs
Dialogue Interviews guide
The Virtuous Circle of CoP

Now that you have your online hub, you can send the link out to those you would like to join your CoP so they can start contributing to the online conversation. They will need to create Co-Creation Network website accounts too, and then can request to join your CoP.

What you might also find useful at this point is this presentation from Matt Laurie at Summer Basecamp 2015 around social learning and CoPs – particularly the types of roles which make for a good core membership.

Agenda Activist
Critical Friends
Social Reporter
External Messenger
Community Keeper

Other top tips for you:

  • There is no rush! Typically, it takes around 6 months for a CoP to coalesce and mature. But there are no hard and fast deadlines to meet.
  • The role of the Facilitator ebbs and flows over time; other core members will play a greater part in it depending on their gifts and the needs of the CoP.
  • There is no ‘critical mass’ for a CoP – it needs as many or as few members as decided by the Community.
  • Make use of the CoP for Facilitators forum to ask more experienced Facilitators your burning questions.
  • The Support Team are always around if you need a hand.


Image via Creative Commons