Identifying, Creating, and Supporting Communities of Innovation, Practice, and Learning

Etienne C. Wenger and William M. Snyder

Updated Stewardship Institute


The NPS Learning & Development community gathered from August 23 – 25, 2016 at the Forging our Future: The Next Century of L&D training. In their session, Rebecca Stanfield McCown and Virginia Farley from the National Park Service Stewardship Institute gave a presentation on the research surrounding Communities of Practice and how to implement them effectively.

Session Abstract

Communities of Practice (COP) are an increasingly important way for people to connect and enhance their skills. This session highlights the current research and shares observations about emerging trends, barriers, and promising practices. There will be opportunities to workshop your own COPs for feedback. Come ready to share your own experiences.

What you’ll learn

The article, Communities of Practice: The Organizational Frontier, was referenced and used during Rebecca and Virginia’s presentation. Take a look to learn more about what a Community of Practice is and how they add value to organizations.

Watch the Video

Reflection Questions

After reviewing the session materials, please reflect on the following:

  1. What is the difference between a community of practice, a formal work group, a project team, and an informal network?
  2. Can the CLP Commons be used to facilitate a community of practice only? Could a Commons group be used for a formal work group, project team, or informal network as well? How would that work?

Write a Review

  1. I found the article very interesting and I see how it relates to the work we’re about to undertake. What stood out for me is “who belongs?” The article noted a few different points: people self select to be in the group and people are invited based on skills. I assume that we’re inviting everyone. How can we be most open in our inclusion process?

    I think the fact that “passion” is a key is a plus for interpretation. We tend to have very passionate people in our ranks.

    It also reminded me a little of unions – the place at the start where it spoke of these communities being in place for thousands of years with like minded people working together. It noted “guilds” and made me think of those on the front line who do the work in the field likely have incredible input.

    The article seemed to have most communication taking place in person or via a call. I’m a little worried that this will transfer to an on-line only version. Interpretation requires reading your audience – challenging to do on-line, and those interpersonal skills that a computer can make cold.

    Overall I can see how this relates to the Interpretive Community we are striving to create.


  2. Hi Pamela- You bring up some excellent points. I often wonder how we make communities of practice accessible and inclusive without making the topic too broad that it isn’t relevant or forcing people to participate. And while we know that nothing replaces face to face engagement, how do we transfer those important skills to an ever growing online environment?

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