Research into sucessful communities of practice by Emily Webber, following on from her book

Communities of practice and budgets for learning

In my book and often when I speak on the topic of communities of practice, I say that they need organisational support. This support comes in the form of, time for community members to dedicate to the community; people to support the development of the community, and money  to spend on community activities. This last point should encompass budget for learning and specific skills development.

I was talking to a community of practice a while back and the topic came up about budgets and learning. The set up at this particular organisation meant that programmes of work held budget for training and the community or individuals did not. This materialised as: the programme budget holders were happy to spend money on training for individuals within it, but only if it was relevant to the specific programme.

The impact of this meant that people’s own professional development was hindered. Training and development for community members became more of an individualistic activity rather than a holistic activity. As well as this, there was a lack of consistency in the access to development that peers have to each other, which meant that for some people, it just wasn’t fair.

On top of this, bringing in less experienced people into a programme in order to develop their skills for the benefit of the organisation, was treated as a programme cost and an additional overhead that no programme wanted to take on.

This all leads to focus on the immediate delivery, with little focus on the sustainability of the organisation as a whole.

Organisations will benefit of they put the responsibility of upskilling staff in the hands of their professional community of practice. Give the community enough budget to develop people where they need to and trust that they will support community members’ ability to do their job, whatever programme they work within.

Photo by Pocoy Calvento

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