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What is a Community of Practice? - CITI
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What is a Community of Practice?

Back in March, we hosted a fantastic event at the Close Brothers offices in London with professionals in the industry interested in discussing the hot topic of understanding what a ‘Community of Practice’ really is, and if it’s a worthwhile investment for individuals, their networks and their respective organisations.

The day was very insightful and full of passionate engagement. So much so, that we have made the decision to revamp our infamous Centres of Excellence Club (CofEe Club) to now be more formally known as Communities of Experience Club!

If you want to take a look at the day, you can find out more by viewing the CofEe Communities of Practice report here.

So what is a Community of Practice (CoP) then?

A community of practice is a group of like-minded people that come together informally to collaborate and share knowledge, ideas and expertise. They aren’t mandated nor governed by the organisation, but rather a fluid membership in which those interested in the subject matter can work with others to instigate or influence improvements.

“In brief, they’re groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise…

…a community of practice may or may not have an explicit agenda on a given week, and even if it does, it may not follow the agenda closely. Inevitably, however, people in communities of practice share their experiences and knowledge in free-flowing, creative ways that foster new approaches to problems.” Snippet taken from Harvard Business Review.

You can’t police a CoP!


Private and informal

Dynamic and fluid to the needs and objectives of its members

Self-motivated members with high engagement return

Ability to have more creative conversations

Not politically influenced or governed by an organisation

Can work across several organisations and networks rather than just an internal entity

Strategic growth and development opportunity

Positive ethos of those involved

Internal and external recognition

Improved project performance

Developed efficiency


Challenges with senior leadership understanding the value of a CoP

Internal senior stakeholders trying to mandate and govern

Lack of incentive to drive the initiative forward

Time poor professionals might find this challenging to upkeep

Lack of structure might lead to struggles with quality or commitment from others

Cultivating over Constructing

Being that a community of practice isn’t formal, it, therefore, doesn’t need to be ‘constructed’. Rather, we should switch mindsets to cultivating a community. This shows informal endorsement and empowers those driven by the idea to actualise it.

One thing an organisation mustn’t do is confuse Communities with Centres of Excellence or even Professions in their own right.

So let’s break it down. Let’s look at the 3 entities based on their structure, the individuals required to develop it, and the organisational involvement.



Invisible (private)

Virtual and fluid


Integral to ‘target’


Invisible (public)

Designed and semi-fluid


Embedded amoung ‘target’


Highly visible

Prescribed and rigid

Formally recognised

Remote from ‘target’




Coordinator and changing leadership

Core, active, and peripheral members

Interest in specific topics


Internally nominated

Temporary role occupancy

Hierarchy of roles

Interest in promulgating profession


Organisationally appointed

Permanent formal positions

Interest in achieving COE objectives


Organisational involvement


None necessary







Support financially

Accommodate in organisational design




Formally appointed

Alters organisational governance and design

So what is a Community of Practice (CoP) then?

As you can see, the community has the biggest differentiator between a profession or a centre of excellence.

So is a community of practice something you’re looking to cultivate?

First thing you need to do is ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I doing this for my organisation or for me?
2. Am I doing this to better a project or programme delivery?
3. Are there other people in my network who mutually wish to participate in a community?
4. What is driving me to create the community?
5. Will I have understanding and support WITHOUT governance from Senior leaders/wider organisation?
6. What support and endorsement can I get from my network to promote my community?
7. Do I have the time and resources to invest in this?

If you’re considering cultivating a community of practice, then let us help and advise. Our passion is in seeing professionals succeed and deliver change successfully. Have a conversation with us and see how we can support your initiative by clicking here:

Why choose CITI

CITI Limited is one of the first, and longest standing, niche consultancies that has led the charge in developing change and project management thinking and essential supporting tools. These are consistently used to assist very capable and intelligent people within a variety of sectors (including IT, communications, financial services, government, and the infrastructure sector), who are undisputed experts in their own disciplines, but need understanding of the project world and how to successfully implement change and new ideas both effectively and efficiently.

Nick Dobson

Nick Dobson, Principal Consultant

Nick is a highly experienced consultant in project and programme management and the sponsorship of such initiatives.

A practitioner, with over 25 years of experience, he has been deeply involved in projects, throughout the lifecycle, as well as discharging operational management functions in a variety of sectors. Nick can be contacted via email at