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People at a workshop

What is a community of practice?

A community of practice (CoP) is a network of people who work in a related field and come together to support each other, collaborate, and share techniques and advice. It can be defined as ‘a group of people who perform similar functions and share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’ (Wenger-Trayner, 1996)​. 

A CoP is a network of people who work in a related field and want to:

  • support each other and benefit from their collective knowledge and experience

  • share techniques and advice

  • discuss problems and possible solutions

  • develop skills that might not be available through formal training

  • align practices to create consistency and improve quality

  • develop innovative ways of working.

Anyone who works in the relevant area at any level can join a CoP. As a member, you can get involved as much or as little as you choose. CoPs are fairly informal and set their own priorities and agendas, so the  more you contribute, the more you get out of them.

Activities and benefits

Healthy CoPs shape their activities around what members need. In person, this could be workshops, unconferences or mentoring; online, it could be forums, toolkits and tip-sheets. Nothing is prescribed and nothing is proscribed.

As well as the opportunity to engage with people working in a similar area, being part of a CoP is likely to help you:

  • stay informed about the latest trends and advances

  • keep up-to-date on your skills

  • find people who can advise you on situations or problems you haven't dealt with before

  • access resources and guidance.

Active and potential communities

Content Community

The Content Community is for web editors, communications staff and anyone else who's passionate about user-centred content. It's been active since December 2018. Visit the Content Community website to sign up.

Technology Community

A new Technical Community, for developers, technicians and IT specialists, has formed. Email Ines de Mantos and Lizzie Courtney if you'd like to join or suggest ideas for future Technology forums and events.

Links to topics, demos and discussions:

November 2019

  • Learn and discuss APIs - recording coming soon!

September 2019

Learn and discuss automation in operations.

July 2019

  • Technical debt and code review. See notes.

  • Automated front end testing, using github to manage local code changes, GitLab google cloud demo. See notes.

  • Long range wide area network, Agile management of projects. See notes.

  • APIs, traditional sysadmin merging with automation, CI/CD, definitive data sources. See notes.

  • Learn and discuss automation in operations 

Leadership Community

The Leadership Community of Practice is intended for line managers, team leads, aspiring managers and those interested in leadership topics. To join the CoP and find out more, visit the Leadership CoP SharePoint site.

Leading Projects

The Leading Projects Community of Practice is intended for Project Managers, Project Coordinators, Programme Managers, Portfolio Managers, Business Analysts, Business Improvement Managers, User Researchers, and anyone in the University involved in one way or another in a project, and interested in sharing ideas and best practices relating to leading and guiding successful projects.
To join the CoP, sign up to the mailing list, and to find out more, visit the Yammer group. (website to come soon)

Security Community

This is a group open for everyone who has an interest in  would like to contribute to or needs help in the field of security. It takes a holisitc approach and incorporates all areas of security. The group is actively seeking individuals who need help or would like to provide experience of their own. Recent topics addressed have included

  • password security
  • information security
  • communication
  • security issues

If you would like to get involved, please contact Alban Milroy.

Learning from best practice

Under the Supporting our Staff work stream of ourcambridge, a seminar introducing CoPs was held in October 2019 with Daniela Bultoc from UCL sharing best practice.

Read Daniela's presentation.