Creating communities of practice: scoping purposeful design

Iaquinto, Ben; Ison, Raymond and Faggian, Robert (2011). Creating communities of practice: scoping purposeful design. Journal of Knowledge Management, 15(1) pp. 4–21.



Purpose – This paper seeks to scope the nature and form of practices, understandings and institutional arrangements that might contribute to the successful ‘‘design’’ and continuity of Communities of Practice (CoP) in a state government department in Australia. The study aims to provide research evidence to support the design and establishment of a CoP based on systems thinking within this department.

Design/methodology/approach – A total of 13 semi-structured interviews were undertaken involving 14 informants. The interviewer also attended one CoP meeting. An emergent approach to research design was adopted with data analysis guided by previous studies on CoPs.

Findings – The research revealed the existence of six CoPs that were purposefully created internally by the department. Six ‘‘design’’ and practice considerations were suggested for practitioners aiming to create and sustain successful CoPs.

Research limitations/implications – Interview material was the only source of primary data and it was gathered from one organisation only – a state government department in Australia. Findings indicate that the role of the CoP coordinator is still not fully understood.

Practical implications – The results from this study can be used in re-designing a systems thinking CoP to support systems thinking within the department. The study also revealed that purposefully designing CoPs is possible and useful for practitioners aiming to collaborate and share expertise across disciplinary and divisional boundaries.

Originality/value – This study provides some guidance for the purposeful design of CoPs, which has been under-examined in the literature.

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