HCC Team
Apr 1, 2021

How communities start

Sometimes, you can put a group of people together, and nothing happens; other times, a strong community begins to form. It's hard to know what triggers this spark. A recent study has attempted to answer this question when it comes to communities of practice. 

Communities of practice are things like Professional Associations, start-up communities, trade associations - where people come together to refine their skills and exchange knowledge. Here are three things critical to making a community of practice work: 

1) A shared understanding of what the community is about

2) A shared identity with shared social norms and values

3) A shared pool of resources and capabilities that are contributed and adopted by members. 

When all the above come together, they enable the adoption of a shared goal for its members and have a strong positive relationship with engagement. Without these three things in a finely tuned balance, the community will become dysfunctional. 

How can organisations facilitate the three key things to happen? The researchers found that, among many other things, organisations that: 

  • Consult members
  • Are selective about new members
  • Celebrate successes
  • Match newcomers to a buddy
  • Enable members to share their goals
  • Organise events

Tend to have the right foundations for these communities of practice to form. 

Naturally, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is much left to research around human behaviour. Measuring it, and seeing how you're tracking is challenging. 

Feel free to reach out to our team if you'd like to know more. 

van Weele, M., Steinz, H., & van Rijnsoever, F. (2017). Start‐up Communities as Communities of Practice: Shining a Light on Geographical Scale and Membership. Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie109(2), 173-188. doi: 10.1111/tesg.12277

Zhang, W., & Watts, S. (2008). Online communities as communities of practice: a case study. Journal Of Knowledge Management12(4), 55-71. doi: 10.1108/13673270810884255

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