Making Communities of Practice work – Part 3

Today I’m delighted to share with you the last of my interviews on the practical topic of making Communities of Practice work. For this last interview, we hear from Anne Bergen, PhD; Director, Knowledge to Action Consulting Inc.

Anne is an evaluation and knowledge mobilization consultant. She completed a PhD in applied social psychology at the University of Guelph in 2011, and founded Knowledge to Action Consulting in 2014. Anne helped develop and co-instructs the Knowledge Mobilization Certificate at the University of Guelph.

Hi Anne! Welcome to Knowledge 4 Lawyers.

Tell me a bit about the Communities of Practice (CoPs) that you are involved in. What is your role in those communities and how does this fit with your “day job”.

I’m involved in the Guelph/Kitchener/Waterloo Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) Community of Practice. We are “an informal group of knowledge mobilization professionals, faculty and students seeking to share best practices, develop new skills, and connect with peers”.

Our CoP has participants from local universities (staff, students, faculty) as well as local KTT practitioners.

My role is one of the co-organizers – I help plan the schedule, update the website, and get the news out about events.

This fits with my day job because I’m a knowledge mobilization and evaluation consultant. At the community of practice, I get to talk shop with peers, and get to be part of a group doing similar work.

What is it about CoPs that that particularly interests you? What prompted you to want to share your experiences with the Canadian Knowledge Mobilisation Forum this year?

CoPs interest me because they’re such a helpful tool for learning – both by knowledge sharing and through seeing models of how people are working. I wanted to share my experiences at the Forum because I’ve been involved in CoPs as an organizer and participant, and it’s been really beneficial. 

What top tips do you have for people who participate in a CoP so that they can get the most from their involvement?

My top tip for participants is to make time for both socializing and knowledge sharing. Think about what you bring to the group, and what you’re hoping to get out of it. Then show up regularly! 

What top tips do you have for those who are responsible for supporting and organising CoPs, rather than participants? Do you have any advice for those trying to manage the knowledge that gets shared within the group and trying to support improved accessibility and action on the knowledge that is shared there?

My top tip for planner and organizers is to share the work with others. This means that others can then pick up the slack when you’re busy, and vice versa. It’s helpful to have someone organizing who is there as part of their job, or can lend institutional support to the CoP (room booking, speaker fees, etc).

Trying to manage the knowledge that gets shared and support accessibility and action can be a full time job, so if that’s a focus of your CoP, it’s a good idea to resource that position rather than relying on volunteers.

Some argue that CoPs need to be allowed to develop organically by the members/participants and too much organisation and control can kill them off. What are your views on this? How much support and/or control do you advise organisations to offer, to get the most benefit from CoPs?

I think a middle ground is helpful. CoPs need a topic of shared practice or interest, and that can change over time. Checking in with members regularly, and adapting to meet their needs and interests, means your CoP will be more sustainable. I think ideally organizations can offer space and convening support and a broad topic area, then let the community organically progress.

Do you have any other practical tips for those working in knowledge and learning, to improve the flow of knowledge around their organisations through communities and conversation?

Figure out how people like to converse in your group and how often people want to be in touch. Then pick your communication platforms accordingly. 

Our CoP makes use of a listserv and a really basic website, as well as social media outreach.  If we were more closely connected or met more often, it would be great to have a chat forum or other means of communicating within the group

What’s next for you and where can we find out more about your other interests?

We need to figure out our winter/spring schedule for the CoP! You can find out more about our upcoming events at http://guelphkttcommunity.ca/about.html

For more about my other knowledge mobilization work and interests, see https://knowledgetoaction.ca/our-projects/

Thank you Anne. We really appreciate your taking the time to share your experience with us.

If you would like to get in touch with Anne, you can link with her on LinkedIn, follow her on twitter at @anne_bergen, or take a look at her website https://knowledgetoaction.ca

About knowledge4lawyers

I am a lawyer and a Knowledge Management expert. Through The Knowledge Business I help law firms improve their efficiency and profitability through knowledge services - consultancy, training and implementation help.
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