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Lisa Whitaker
121
Rapport Building and Communicating Coach Developer

Communities of Practice in Action

This summary report is a prelude to our series exploring the value of Communities of Practice (CoPs) as we measure the impact CoPs can have on coaches within a foundation trust

Learning in a community of practice (CoP) looks and feels very different to traditional education methods that we are used to. This is one of the main strengths of learning in a CoP, as it allows everyone to participate, get involved in the learning in a relaxed and more informal way.

In 2018 and 2019, UK Coaching supported The Albion Foundation to set up and implement a CoP to provide staff with more opportunities to develop informally through social interactions. As part of the project, the process of setting up a CoP was evaluated along with the experiences of those involved to determine the value of CoPs.

The Value Creation Framework (Wenger et al, 2011) was used to assess the impact of the CoP on The Albion Foundation and the coaches working within the foundation. Data was collected via observations of the initial CoPs and feedback from the leaders. Reviews were also conducted at 12 months, with a small number of staff and leaders from the CoPs. All five cycles of the Value Creation Framework were represented in the findings, demonstrating the impact of CoPs on coaches. 

Examples of key themes to emerge include:

  • Coaches enjoyed being able to connect with like-minded people (immediate value)
  • CoPs helps to increase coaches’ confidence (potential value)
  • Coaches have implemented new ideas (applied value)
  • Coaches are setting up their own CoPs (realised value)
  • Hierarchies within the foundation have diminished (reframed value)

CoPs can create value for coaches in many ways. Equally, there are benefits for the community/organisation running the CoPs. 

Short-term benefits included forming new relationships, gaining new ideas and developing new skills. For example, as a result of taking part in the CoP, coaches have had more opportunities to connect with one another and develop new relationships.

Outside of the CoPs, coaches communicate with one another much more to share ideas and gain feedback. Long-term benefits included applying new ideas in coaching practice, setting up new CoPs and reframing the way a group thinks, behaves and operates. For example, due to participation in the CoPs, hierarchies within the foundation have diminished and everyone is seen as an expert in something. Coaches are now willing to ask for ideas and share suggestions with others regardless of their experience within the foundation.  

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Lisa Whitaker