Identifying Community of Practice Needs

Community and FacilitorOne of the things we have learnt from the development and use of the IDeA Community of Practice Platform is that a CoP can have different needs, dependent on the stage in their life cycle and their primary purpose. The role and importance of the facilitators (or moderators) in these communities cannot be overemphasised since they must ensure that the needs of the CoP are understood in order to create the appropriate environment for achieving their CoP’s goals and objectives.

The following table identifies various needs of a CoP, dependent on its primary purpose. A CoP could go through all of these various categories of need during its life-cycle. Successful facilitators will be in tune with the changing needs of their CoPs, and will provide the required support and facilities to meet these needs.

How does a facilitator know what his/her community needs at any particular point in time? Through continual engagement with community members and regular member surveys.


Helping needs

Where members help each other to solve day-to-day issues and experts can be invited in to help.

Best practice needs

Where developing and disseminating best practice, guidelines and procedures issued to provide instant access to validated and up to date knowledge and information.

  • connecting people
  • increasing exchange of lessons learnt and good practice
  • building trust
  • seeking new understanding of developments and implementations
  • creating a forum to support requests for help and assistance
  • collaborating to develop, consult and validate practice
  • creating an environment to share, assess value and disseminate good ideas
  • publishing and disseminating specific practices
  • creating self-help functions
  • verifying effectiveness and benefit of practice
  • accelerating collaboration across organisations or a specialism
  • accelerating the speed of quality decision making and implementation of best practice
  • strengthening networks and improving employee relations
  • Achieve higher standards in projects, strategies and improving outcomes
  • facilitating professional peer learning and drawing from expert knowledge and experience
  • enlisting leading experts

Knowledge Stewarding needs

Where there is a need to organise, manage and steward a body of knowledge from which members can draw.

Innovation needs

Where the creation of breakthrough ideas, knowledge and practices is paramount

  • creating a shared understanding of issues
  • creating a safe and trusted environment where innovation can take place
  • providing instant access to knowledge and information in an organised and intuitive way
  • supporting creative, experimental, multi-disciplinary and cross boundary working
  • accessing collective and vetted knowledge that is managed, summarised and up to date
  • sharing and developing expert knowledge and thinking
  • bring together timely and relevant knowledge and information
  • developing innovative practices
  • providing quick and easy access to up to date news, publications, websites and practice in one place
  • accelerating the rate of innovation through sharing and testing out ideas
  • increasing opportunities for self-help and personal development
  • providing opportunities to approach and work with new technologies, new business and new approaches
  • collaborating to increase the productivity of ideas and knowledge
  • providing channels to support the development of new ideas and ways of working
  • helping with leadership issues
  • sharing warnings and deciphering trends


  1. David Wilcox said:

    I’ve noted over here that I believe your analysis – and incidently that of Anecdote in your other item – is very relevant these days to membership organisations. NCVO today organised a conference on Membership Schemes, and there was a lot of talk about the Net and the impact it will have, as people form their own communities online. Sensible organisations will get into the facilitation business to offer members a better environment than they can find in the wild

    April 22, 2008
  2. Steve Dale said:

    thanks for the comment. I guess the key point is to never assume that all users (members) know how to effectively collaborate. For some this may be the first time they’ve tried social networking through a virtual medium, and it can be both confusing and intimidating. A good facilitator will provide a warm and inviting environment, and be sensitive to the mood and needs of the community. A facilitated community works on behalf of all of the members, whereas it’s every man (or woman) for himself (or herself) in an unbounded, unfacilitated community. Adopting your term ‘wild’, maybe we should call these ‘feral communities’!

    April 22, 2008

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