Communities of Practice
Communities of Practice (COP) are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. This definition holds that there could be multiple COP’s occurring within a region.
Typical COP functions include: problem solving; requests for information; seeking experience; reusing assets; coordination and synergy situation; discussing developments; documentation projects; visits; mapping knowledge and identifying gaps.
COP’s differ from other groups such as project groups, working groups, educational forums in that there is an expectation of a commitment to the collective sphere impacted by the practice, not just for individual gain. A COP involves shared competence, and a commitment to sharing ones own knowledge and experience as well as creating new knowledge and experience.
Over the last 3 months, WAI Wānaka has been supported by the Jobs for Nature Secretariat and Ministry for Primary Industry to understand the needs of community organisations in the region and propose a Community of Practice (COP) model that could:
- support individual community organisations to thrive, endure and deliver on their project outcomes,
- operate effectively and sustainably across the region to increase coordination between groups, and
- be scaled from local to regional to national to create broader value and deeper connection from government investment to environmental impact.
The Jobs for Nature initiative saw $1.219b distributed through five government agencies to 408 different projects and organisations. While each organisation is different, the majority are community/NFP organisations independent of central government who receive project specific investment to have social and/or environmental impact. Each of the organisations are at different stages of organisational growth from those in start-up to 15 years of ongoing activity.
The findings of this pilot indicate the participating twenty-four organisations are all time poor, looking for ways of securing ongoing funding and/or are challenged by the restricted scope and finite time period of government investment. While each strives for better practice, many, if not most, rely on volunteer time and lack capacity to seek support to fast-track delivery of outputs.
In discussions with the secretariat of Jobs for Nature it became evident that this was an issue nationwide, and that duplication of effort, clarification of specific issues, groups not having access to knowledge and expertise, and lag time for programme set-up were all affecting delivery of projects.
The outcomes required from a COP model to support community organisations and the environments and communities they serve were:
- Organisations are set up for sustainability and impact
- COPs are occurring around prioritised topic areas and regions
- Better practice across environmental impact projects – better, faster, cheaper
- CoPs are aligned and work together for greater impact
- Scalable COP model nationally