The CoP toolkit : People – Place – Paper

Let’s have a look now at the three other axis of the toolkit for analyzing Communities of Practice :

People, surely the most debated topic when it comes to communities of practice, and probably the most important too.

Key words here are trust and reputation.  The building of trust and reputation between the members of a community is a slow, long process.   Focused expertise exchange sessions and frequent informal communications help to better understand the other person and the world (s)he lives in.

The current social networking tools (Linkedin, Facebook, …) can be a good help here, since they blurred the boundary between professional (serious) and personal (fun) life.

On this axis the number of interactions can be measured.

The place to be is where the community feels at home.  In a broader sense it is the systems and tools a community feels comfortable to use.

In a digital world, on-line work spaces with discussion forums and document libraries are used, maybe video conferencing tools, netmeetings, newsletters, blogs,  …
How comfortable people feel with these tools determines their use and effectiveness.  As such, this is an important parameter to measure the CoP’s health and maturity.

Finally, paper stands for what we do not forget.  It is the common memory of community member generated and valued content, documentation and learning history.

It includes the actual knowledge base of the community’s practices, the knowledge created and shared by the community members.  But also stories (about successes and failures), because they enforce and sustain the community identity and the sense of belonging.

The number of artefacts and the processes in place to manage them can be measured.


Analyzing a community of practice on these five topics (purpose, processes, people, place and paper) is an easy process and quickly provides a community’s fingerprint.


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