A community of practice

There is something different about the relationships I’ve developed through my blog. What started as an individual desire to share my excitement at pain management done well (and wanting to have others learn and do it too) has developed into a community. Two definitions spring to mind.

A thriving community is one in which information and resources flow smoothly through the community from where these assets exist to where they can be best applied. The people within a thriving community feel cared for, acknowledged, and yearn to give back to their community as a whole as well as the people within it. [my emphasis]

There is a sense that the community becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

Thriving communities encourage connection, foster a sense of shared purpose, highlight small as well as large successes. Thriving communities celebrate the best in the people around us, and  challenge one another other to strive further toward our edges. Conversations in thriving communities foster a sense that we are working together for something greater than ourselves (abridged from Thrivability).

I look at the various groups I belong to on Facebook, Twitter and my blog. Together I think we’ve formed a community of practice.

Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor [my italics]: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope. In a nutshell: Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (from Wenger and Traynor)

What unites us is “an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people.” We “engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. [We] build relationships that enable [us] to learn from each other; [we] care about [our]  standing with each other.” We “are practitioners. [We] develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice.” (from Wenger and Traynor)


Something missing from much of the “translation into practice” research is attention to developing a thriving community of practice. Humans are social (even introverts like me!) and we like to share stories, we like experts – but only if they spend time giving us their knowledge. We need to connect so we can ask questions, challenge ideas, push our thoughts and pose sticky questions so we CAN push our thinking as far as it will go. The communities of practice I belong to have developed informally but oh how they challenge my thinking!

I’m struck by this idea of pairing “book learning” or research with practice because it seems to me that this is one way my blog functions. I’m never happier than when learning something new from a journal. Even looking up Wenger and Traynor’s work is such a geeky thing to do, yet it’s clarified so much about the sense of connection I have with the people I’ve connected with since my blog began.


When I ran my recent survey I found that by far the majority of respondents want me to carry on doing what I’m doing – reading research, summarising it, then asking the “so what does this mean in practice?” question. These results suggest to me that I’m fulfilling an important function. While the number of hits is slowly trending down (sad face), discussions about the content I write happen in many different forums. What I hope is that the discussions feed a thriving community of practice. Want to join me?


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