Creating a Community of Practice

In April, I co-hosted a two-day learning lab called Leading in Emergence. Designed for multi-sector leaders to explore, practice and apply current frames, competencies and practices for navigating the uneven and slippery terrain of complex emergence, our intention was to create a community of practice among the participants to continue what we began during those two remarkable days.

Etienne Wenger coined the phrase, “community of practice” and describes it as a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

From personal experience, we know that to learn and lead from the emerging future, we need to engage in deep learning cycles that involve opening our minds, our hearts and our wills to be able to see, be and do in new and innovative ways. To facilitate this type of learning, as learners and leaders, we need, as Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer suggest, “practice fields”- those safe spaces in which we prototype new behaviours, new mindsets and new cultures of collaboration across sectors.

A commitment was made with the participants to gather on the last Wednesday of the month, to share the various hosting roles, in order to learn how to do this work better. Yesterday was our first day in our fledgling circle. Twelve of us were warmly welcomed and hosted. Here’s the poem I “caught” from our check-in. Thanks to Beth Sanders for showing me how:

Sweet delight when frustration shifts to grace crossing thresholds of the internal and external

With deliberate intention, a balance found dabbling in emergence

When not enough time makes me a slave to the internal

When on vacation, a simpler tension – the yin and yang of the meaning I make out of sensing the not paying attention to what impacts

To touch every surface – to be present

Let the games begin!

PS: Our next Leading in Emergence learning lab is November 6-7, 2014.  We’d love to have you join us.

5 thoughts on “Creating a Community of Practice

  1. Another element I have found useful to land (and define) a community of practice is the presence of agreements, or protocols. I have been part of groups that call themselves a CoP, but it is remarkably different with this element. They need only be lightly there, but there all the same, to deepen into a meaningful “practice.” Or they can be very serious and heavy, as is the case with a professional association.

    One of the things you do so well, Katharine, is name the agreements when a group comes together even only briefly. You practice this practice!!


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