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CofEe - Communities of Practice - CITI
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I would like to start by saying a huge thank you to our wonderful hosts for the day Close Brothers.  The venue was great, and we were really looked after with the wonderful lunch and refreshments that were provided. Also for supporting our clients requests to obtain quieter rooms which were made available, thank you!

The day was filled with energetic and engaged professionals who passionately discussed the theme centred around ‘Communities of Practice’ within the industry and respective organisations.

It was insightful to hear the different mechanisms that organisations have already or are planning to adopt to empower their people to bring about successful change and innovation through different projects and programmes. Hearing success stories, challenges of 3 groups of expertise; Centres of Excellence, Professions and Communities of Practice.

Organisations in attendance

We have some news!

In light of the industry movement and the thought-provoking conversations at this event, we have decided to revamp our renowned Centres of Excellence Club, to the Communities of Experience Club. We hope this change will allow us to adapt further to continue staying relevant and having highly engaging conversations. Watch this space!

Nick help us distinguish the similarities and differences between 3 key groups within organisations- Centres of Excellence, Professions and the topic of conversation, Communities of Practice. challenges of 3 groups of expertise; Centres of Excellence, Professions and Communities of Practice.

If you would like to access the slides used on the day, please enter your email address to access the link below:

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Explaining Communities of Practice

There was some ambiguity as to how formalised and centrally-directed a Community of Practice can, or should, be. There might still be a tendency to promote something that looks much more like the ‘knowledge sharing’ elements of a profession without engaging the private and personal networking necessary for a true Community of Practice.

This will not achieve the full benefits from either a community of practice or a profession and will be mis-promoted with the ideal individuals as well as giving false expectations from management or the community itself.

The failure to grasp this understanding might explain why so many ‘communities of practice’ don’t work and can become an articulation of corporate desire that is not followed-up by practitioners’ appetites or interests.  The compelling insight from this debate was that the ‘what’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM).


Poll 1: To start the day, we took a temperature check on the types of entities organisations in the room were attempting to host or build.  Interestingly, ‘Centres of Excellence’ didn’t feature to any extent in either the survey and dynamically therefore not for the rest of the day.

What type of entity is your organisation supporting or trying to achieve?

  • Communities of Practice

  • Profession

  • Centres of Excellence

Poll 2: We wanted to establish how well corporate efforts to establish/support the entity were aligned with its features and characteristics.  It’s clear that most participants felt that their organisation needed either medium or high levels of alteration to improve the chances of success.

How appropriate would you rate your organisations approach to developing or nurturing their chosen entity?

  • No adjustment required

  • Low levels of adjustment

  • Medium levels of adjustment

  • High levels of adjustment

Poll 3: We invited everyone to rate their organisation’s approach to developing the entity on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect).  As expected, the responses closely mirrored the second poll.  Interestingly most participants (64%) felt their organisation was a 6 or lower.

In light of today’s discussions, what level of adjustment do you think your organisation’s approach requires?

  • No adjustment required

  • Low levels of adjustment

  • Medium levels of adjustment

  • High levels of adjustment

Expert Q&A Panel Discussions

We were delighted to be joined on the panel by Amy Jackson (Close Brothers), Jo Stanford (HPCA), Graham Jennings (Ofgem), Ian Cribbes (Programme Manager).

Amongst topics of interest, surfaced during the discussions were:

The concept of the evolution of professions from increasingly formalised communities of practice.  Whilst there is some attraction to the concept in terms of successful communities might well grow both physically as well as in terms of their areas of interest (including secular, rather than exclusively, practice related).  However, the implication of such an approach, if it were to exist, of usurping the authority of the governance structure of the organisation would suggest it as unlikely as well as potentially unwelcome by the ‘host’ organisation.

One panel expert suggested that the need for infrastructure and support for a profession should not be underestimated; it had proved rather more prodigal than had been expected.

Another suggested that with respect to a community of practice construct the level of infrastructure and support were best aimed at facilitating and administering the community but that they (the community) should be posed with the question of their agenda.  This latter comment resonates closely with the literature on the subject and was also mirrored by Andy McAlister’s (our Close Brothers’ host) assertion that the community of practice construct.

“depended on facilitation and the provision of space to grow and not on top-down imposition”

How can you quantify the proof of value of a community of practice? Everyone was unanimous in supporting the concept that communities of practice must provide value. However, the extent to which this is in the interest of the organisation, or the community did prove quite divisive. The organisation is not able to mandate the value the community seeks (this is probably one of the seminal distinctions between a profession and a community).


Professions Workshop

  1. Start Position

Yes it was felt this was important because it would affect several factors such as:

  • Culture
  • Direction of travel and transition away from old structure
  • Development paths
  • Understanding who within the organisation fits into the profession

Use of existing frameworks (e.g. IPA or APM’s Chartership) which might include:

  • Capability frameworks
  • Specialisms (definitions and articulations)


  1. Ownership

Considerations touched on the following five sub-themes.

  • Executive role, which should hold ultimate responsibility
  • Experience based heads may not understand Capabilities the profession is aiming to deliver
  • Flexibility in application of learning to balance experience v. qualification
  • Sponsorship should provide:
    • investment in development, and
    • Strategy / purpose setting
  • Recognition should be seen from the perspectives of:
    • Team awards
    • Attracting and retaining talent

Communities of Practice Workshop

  1. Start Position
  • Few ‘greenfield’ or ‘clean slate’ situations seem to exist at outset, instead dealing with either previous organisational attempts or self-ceded Communities of Practice.


  1. Ownership
  • There was a general perception of “fear of ownership” based on a lack of bandwidth/time to take on the additional work.
    • This led to a view that there really needs to be some corporate acceptance of need to carve-out the time necessary.
  • There was a view that whilst the community would/should set its direction of travel there was a real potential for tension between the community’s interests and the organisation’s.


  1. Membership
  • Should be open (not exclusive) self-organising
  • “Lean” organiser with commitment from, and engagement by, the membership consciously generated (discharging roles on a one-year term to ensure “buy in”, for example) by a well-paced calendar or road map of events giving clarity over the short term future.


  1. Roles and responsibilities

Suggestions/recommendations for focus included:

  • Build-in rewards/appraisal/extra-curricular activities
  • Offer opportunities for personal development
  • Seek corporate contributions
  • Improvement of the working/practice environment
  • Part time engagement rather than full time
  • Effect on recruitment/retention/attraction of organisation to potential recruits
  • Timing of events (possibly using virtual mechanisms when time zones are crossed)
  • Focusing on interest and fun
  • Ensuring quality and quantity are appropriately balanced in developing collateral/lessons for the community.


  1. Recognition, endorsement, and sponsorship


  • Senior management should be the sponsoring body and be prepared to Champion the initiative.
  • The creation of a Charter and clarification of how it will add value and what the intent is are all important considerations in generating buy-in.
  • Helping to provide transparency of ongoing continuous professional development opportunities might be helpful.
  • A focus on problem solving would also appear valuable. Perhaps focusing on co-creation of solutions or cross-sectoral working. This is dependent on good collaboration and communications (both seem invaluable to the COP ethos)
  • Several imaginative ‘events’ were also put forward and included:
    1. Virtual ‘book club’
    2. Virtual Coffee Meet-up “someone you don’t know”
    3. Virtual TED talks
    4. Advent of learning (for example Days of Christmas)
    5. Topic networking events/discussion groups
    6. Breakfast ‘switch-up’ meetings (avoiding precious personal time).


  1. Governance and organisational structure
  • Initial structure might be defined by a recipe of ingredients -how this looks in each organisation is likely to be different. But important to have consistency of language (or understanding).
  • Coordination is key to creation of the community, setting tone and pace and setting it into motion.
  1. Physical infrastructure

Creating a suitable environment to which engagement can take place is vital to the success of the COP but the technology required to bring those ideas together might help spur creativity and better communication:

  • Website
  • Chat Room/s
  • Safe space to converse (devoid of judgement)
  • Charter
  • Vocabulary (lexicon?)
  • Mechanism for sharing successes.

Whilst communities of practice might, on a cost basis, look like an attractive option to many businesses there is not a clear appreciation of how ‘unmanageable’, from a corporate perspective, the community of practice concept is.

What’s next?

Let’s now leverage the momentum of this newly formed community to have more advanced conversations, provide opportunities to share knowledge and invoke change. This is just the start for many of our organisations to building their own internal communities or professions.  We will be supporting this by:

Following insights around key subject areas

Creating more regular virtual sessions on relavant topics

LinkedIn Groups to continue the conversation

Keep in touch for upcoming CofEe Club events

Make your vote for the next event?

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CITI has been known for respectfully challenging the norms, pushing the agenda for meaningful change and developing thinking on what’s next. We can effectively support your business transformation agenda, bring the communities together to tackle real life business challenges, developing leadership enablement, empowering people to make safer decisions, capability development and navigating the complexity of culture change and people.

Thank you to all the participants who took the time out of their busy diaries to attend, to Close Brothers again for hosting us and to the wider CITI team who work hard to make this happen.  The feedback has been fantastic for this 48th CofEe Club!

Our CofEe Club wouldn’t be what it is today without wonderful hosts! Would you like to collaborate with CITI to host our next CofEe Club? Please get in touch with your CITI contact or email  We are also keen to hear about any topical areas that you may wish to nominate for future events.

Previous hosts


Register for our next Centres of Excellence event here, and get all the latest news and information for the CofEe Club - and the exclusive CofEe Club Summary Report.

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