Social discipline of learning
This slide introduces a simple, basic model for communities of practice as the cornerstone of a social discipline of learning. It contains seven basic elements. The three central elements are definitional of communities of practice as social learning context: each one is an aspect of the social discipline: what we are about (domain), how we form a community and who should be part of it (community), and what is the practice that we need to get better at (practice). These three elements are mutually defining and work as a set. The four arrows refer to four distinct perspectives of constituencies for whom this social discipline is important.

Participation and leadership

The first horizontal pair of perspective arrows are within the circle of the community. The reason for participation, the “what’s in it for me,” the learning imperative of members is the foundation of the social energy of a community of practice. But having members who are ready to go the extra mile to nurture the community is a key success factor.

Sponsorship and support

These need not be, and usually are not, performed by members. Note that these seven elements also indicate what to pay attention to when attempting to cultivate communities of practice. They are developmental elements. In summary, they address the following questions typical of a social discipline of learning:

  • What is the partnership about?
  • Who should be at the table?
  • What should they do together?
  • How are they going to benefit?
  • Who will take leadership?
  • Who are the external stakeholders?
  • Where are resources for support?