Implementing Communities of Practice
We have adopted a clear model to promote engagement and knowledge transfer around our research themes.
Research has shown that professional networks, local exchanges of knowledge, and the advice and support of peers or local opinion leaders is more likely to lead to changes in practice than clinical guidelines or scientific evidence.
Within CLAHRC-NDL, the Research Support and Delivery Unit (RDSU) has responsibility for supporting the development of communities of practice around each clinical research theme.
What are Communities of Practice?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are groups or networks of people who have a shared interest in a particular topic or area of practice. Their purpose is to share information, advice and insights between members of the network in order to improve practice.
Why are they useful to CLAHRC-NDL?
They are one way to promote communication and improve practice – which is the main aim of the CLAHRC-NDL. In fact, research has shown that professional networks, local exchanges of knowledge, and the advice and support of peers or local opinion leaders is more likely to lead to changes in practice than clinical guidelines or high-quality scientific evidence.
How do they work?
CoPs can be face-to-face, they can also be virtual. They may involve large groups or small, and they may change in membership and aims over time. The essential ingredients appear to be enthusiasm for a topic, opportunities to communicate about this common interest, some administrative support to keep people in touch with each other, and enough leadership or initiative to give the group some impact.
Who can be in a Community of Practice?
Anyone who has an interest or experience in the particular area of practice can become a member of a community of practice.
They could be a practitioner, a researcher, a service manager, a commissioner, a service-user or carer, or someone working in voluntary organizations and the Third sector.
Members of a community of practice must self-select themselves to join.
Research has shown that professional networks, local exchanges of knowledge, and the advice and support of peers...is more likely to lead to changes in practice than clinical guidelines or...scientific evidence.
How are Communities of Practice formed?
Communities of Practice are not easy to build or sustain, and they can fail if over-managed. It seems that the most effective approach is to make use of natural networks of clinicians and practitioners which emerge spontaneously through the relationships among clinicians and which function with very little externally exposed structure and management. However, there are two key areas in which we can support their development:
Ensuring the right people are brought together in the network
Providing an infrastructure to support that network
What do we need to do?
Within our four clinical themes, our researchers can help to support the development of a community of practice by helping to bring together people who will be able to develop and sustain it. They can do this by:
Identifying and making links with existing networks of practitioners and other stakeholders in their area of research
Identifying and making links with local opinion leaders and champions
Encouraging these people to become CLAHRC Associates so that they can receive research updates, CLAHRC newsletters, and hear about events
Inviting them to the CLAHRC conference or other events that may be of interest
Organising networking events around specific topics of mutual interest
What support is provided?
Within CLAHRC-NDL, the Research Support and Delivery Unit (RDSU) has responsibility for supporting the development of communities of practice around each clinical research theme. We do this through:
Setting out a strategy and approach to developing communities of practice
Providing resources and guidance to CLAHRC Staff and Diffusion Fellows concerning the recruitment of CLAHRC Associates
Providing an IT infrastructure for sharing ideas and best practice
Hosting events, seminars, workshops, conferences to allow social networks and communities of practice to develop
Supporting the development of communications tailored to the needs and perspectives of your stakeholder groups through our Communications Officer, Ian Kingsbury
If you have any suggestions about how CLAHRC-NDL can help you further with Communities of Practice, please contact Louise Thomson.