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RE: [km4dev-l] Using community of practice *theories* when setting up networks... Any experiences?

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  • John David Smith
    Hi Arwen and everybody, I think it’s worth noticing what that advisor is asking you and wondering what that question means and what might be behind it?
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 7, 2012
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      Hi Arwen and everybody,

       

      I think it’s worth noticing what that advisor is asking you and wondering what that question means and what might be behind it?  Specifically, “add a section on CoPs and development since there are quite a lot of websites that are CoP focussed but not all using the idea in the same way” and “a good picture of current research on CoPs-development-Africa, or if I am missing something because of the boundaries of my own practice?

       

      I think that being aware of the boundaries of our own practice (as you mention) is one way of “using community of practice theories”.  Who we know and what those people talk about and how they talk all make a big difference on our “knowing.” 

       

      It’s interesting to me we conventionally assume that learning in our own field or our own context is different, somehow, from the rest.  As in learning in the field of healthcare for doctors is different than for nurses, in Jewish synagogues is different than in a Unitarian church, and engineering education is different from teacher education, to name some of the “places” where I’ve heard it claimed.  I’m not saying it’s all the same, but I’m always struck by the claim because it’s usually an unreflected-upon-claim, not something that people examine carefully.

       

      So one use of community of practice theories is to help us bridge across fields and contexts and ask, “how different, exactly, are you?  Or am I?”

       

      Etienne has written about the evolution of the concept here: http://wenger-trayner.com/resources/publications/cops-and-learning-systems/

       

      And Jean Lave observed that the meaning of the term when applied is subject to some kind of evolution & variation – people mean what they want by it (and that’s interesting, useful, and shocking).   Here’s a snippet in the context of geographers and economic development, "Epilogue: Situated Learning and Changing Practice" pp 283-296 in Ash Amin and Joanne Roberts (eds), Community, Economic Creativity, and Organization (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press,  2008) http://isbn.nu/978-0-19-954550-6

       

      "In taking up the opportunity so kindly extended by Amin and Roberts [the book editors] to learn first hand about contemporary work on 'communities of practice' in the field of management studies, I have repeatedly had the fun of being surprised (both delighted and shocked) at the changing employment of 'communities of practice'.  In my own work I have continued to pursue the path we began to set out in Situated Learning.  Clearly I believe our 'take' on communities of practice was part of a powerful and productive approach to social analysis.  But it is also clear that this is now just one conception of communities of practice among others.  So go changing knowledgeabilities-in-practice."

       

      Jean Lave also talks about how the social learning theories apply to “us, as researchers or observers,” in Apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011) http://isbn.nu/9780226470726 .  Proposing to make claims that can’t be challenged or are completely decontextualized scientific knowledge puts us toward the left side of this table:

      TABLE 2. Underlying binary relations

      Formal education (schooling)

      versus

      Informal education (apprenticeship)

      Experimental method

      versus

      Ethnographic/qualitative research

      Decontextualized scientific knowledge

      versus

      Everyday knowing in context

      General theory

      versus

      Specific applications, applied fields

      She talks about these issues in a lecture on YouTube that’s really interesting. 

       

      To me, community of practice theories go to core questions of how we learn, how we know, and who we are.  And I think those questions matter, not only in development, in Africa, but in a lot of other places and contexts that I can think of.   One consequence of my hang-up on those theories is that I take the time to write this kind of long statement, when I “should be” working on other things!

       

      John

      * John David Smith ~ Voice: 503.963.8229 ~ Skype & Twitter: smithjd http://gplus.to/smithjd

      * Portland, Oregon, USA http://www.learningAlliances.net

      * Join our Ning Stackathon at http://cpsquare.org/wiki/Ning_Stackathon_project

      * “We are as autonomous with regard to technology as we are with regard to

      * language, oxygen, or gravity.” - Peter-Paul Verbeek

       

      From: arwenb@... [mailto:arwenb@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 3:25 AM
      To: KM4Dev
      Subject: [km4dev-l] Using community of practice *theories* when setting up networks... Any experiences?

       

      Dear all

       

      Thank you all for your kind consideration of my question.

       

      Josef - Thank you. I will be able to access the Top Ten oncemy membership of the KM4Dev LinkedIn group is approved and then will take a look.

       

      Susan - are your networks within SNV?or across different organizations

       

      I think, as Nancy suggests, it is best if i give more context to my question.

       

      I have recently completed a MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice and the focus of my research was using social learning systems, and particularly CoP theory as a lens for looking at the potential of a sustainable fellowship alumni network. I have read much of Wenger, and also Digital Habitats, and been in touch through CPSquare with John D Smith and Tony Carr (at the beginning though not recently).

       

      Now I am writing an article drawing on my research, which i would like to submit to a peer-reviewed journal and one of my professors has commented that she was wondering if i have picked up enough refs to others working in development who have used CoP theories. She has suggested I might usefully add a section on CoPs and development since there are quite a lot of websites that are CoP focussed but not all using the idea in the same way: as you say below Nancy: the different uses of CoP ideas

       

      My potential network is women in lots of different organizations. Most of the research I have seen is about networks at insitutional level, or within an organization. But I have not found any research on inter-organizational groups (such as KM4Dev), and most of the formal research I have seen has been on using CoP theories to inform your work rather then understanding your work. Actually no, most of it starts from the reified idea of a CoP as something you can set up and then researches how to do that better.My impressions are also that there is a lot going on in a formal sense, in South Africa, and that the main domains being researched and written about are Health and Higher Education, less Agriculture or Development.

       

      I was wondering if what I am seeing is a good picture of current research on CoPs-development-Africa, or if I am missing something because of the boundaries of my own practice?

       

      And hence my question to Ewen. Have i made things clearer or muddier now? The aim in short is to provide a solid context for the claims in my paper which is about looking with CoP-eyes (and social learning eyes) at a group of African women in agricultural research and development.

       

      Any help welcome. Thank you.

       

      Arwen

       

       

       

       

       

       

      ----Messaggio originale----
      Da: nancyw@...
      Data: 07/08/2012 2.37
      A: "KM4Dev"<km4dev-l@...>
      Ogg: [km4dev-l] Using community of practice *theories* when setting up networks... Any experiences?

      There are a lot of people who a) use CoP theories in informing their works and the inverse b) use CoP theories to understand their work. I think the difference is useful. IN fact Jenny Mackness posted on this just today (although in a different domain - education) https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/a-social-theory-of-learning-schools-and-landscapes-of-practice/

      Currently I'm working with some of IFAD's agricultural CoPs. Tony Carr is looking at CoPs of African educators (or more precisely, connecting CoPs into a larger network, which I think goes beyond CoP theory but is REALLY important).

      It would be useful to know more context about Arwen's inquiry. Maybe she can interview or query the community on the list?

      Nancy

      At 12:14 AM 8/6/2012, you wrote:

      Hello all,

      Someone (Arwen Bailey) posted this interesting question on the CGIAR Yammer network recently:
      I am interested in the ways people use Communities of Practice theories when designing networks and am trying to get a feel for others—particularly in Africa—working in development, agriculture and/or ARD who have used CoP theories.
      Can anyone give me any leads?


      Would any of you have or know some of those leads?
      Thanks for any pointers, I'll pass them on to Arwen :)

      Ewen

      Please take a look at the KM4dev Knowledge Base wiki, where we encourage you to summarize discussion threads:http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_KnowledgeKM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches. To unsubscribe from this list, send a blank message to leave.km4dev-l@.... Please check out our website:http://www.km4dev.org

      You are receiving this message because you are a member of the community KM4Dev.

      A reply to this message will be sent to all members of KM4Dev.

      Reply to sender | Unsubscribe

      Please take a look at the KM4dev Knowledge Base wiki, where we encourage you to summarize discussion threads:

      http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_Knowledge

      KM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches. To unsubscribe from this list, send a blank message to leave.km4dev-l@.... Please check out our website:

      http://www.km4dev.org

      You are receiving this message because you are a member of the community KM4Dev.

      A reply to this message will be sent to all members of KM4Dev.

      Reply to sender | Unsubscribe

       

       

       

      Please take a look at the KM4dev Knowledge Base wiki, where we encourage you to summarize discussion threads:

      http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_Knowledge

      KM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches. To unsubscribe from this list, send a blank message to leave.km4dev-l@.... Please check out our website:

      http://www.km4dev.org

      You are receiving this message because you are a member of the community KM4Dev.

      A reply to this message will be sent to all members of KM4Dev.

      Reply to sender | Unsubscribe

    • peter bond
      Hi Arwen (I believe we had an exchange on linked-in ), First, John, thanks for the link to the wenger article on systems and CoPs. Missed that one.) I have
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 8, 2012
      • 0 Attachment
        Hi Arwen (I believe we had an exchange on linked-in ), First, John, thanks for the link to the wenger article on systems and CoPs. Missed that one.)

        I have tried to keep up with the use of CoPs in development. I joined something organised by the world bank and had a few exchanges. I've never had a criticism of Lave and Wenger working together or independently, but I have had some extreme misgivings about the application of their ideas, even by Wenger himself. The biggest problem for me is the widely held belief that a CoP, especially of the so-called virtual kind, can include multiple 100s even thousands of members. This idea is prevalent in the field of economic development and is evident in the work of the world bank and is, I think, unworkable.

        Work by Robin Dunbar and colleagues on the limits to effective social group/network size, which has been gaining greater public exposure due to the success of facebook etc, ought to be worth exploring alongside CoP. Dunbar, an evolutionary biologist, has found a correlation between effective group size and the physical size of the brain in primates. This is known as the social brain hypothesis. 150 is the maximum groupsize for Homo sapiens. Even before this number is reached, there is increasing instability which leads to 'fission'. Group coherence depends on the frequency and quality of face to face interaction, which will determine how much each can learn from and about each other. Incidentally, this need for proximity and quality relationships also crops up in team research, which I think you should also explore, as much is relevant to CoPs (despite views to the contrary). Dunbar's research would suggest an effective social group can have a max membership of 150, and only under 'normal' circumstances, that is, in a nonvirtual context. In systems terms, what this implies is that the working/loving relationships between the group's members can be maintained only within certain limits, and relationships between members (nodes/components) mean structure. The stronger the relationships the stronger the structure the more effective the system (but be mindful that rigid structures reduce responsiveness and in theory reduce individual inventiveness, reduce effective problem solving). If development agencies believe they have CoPs of 1000s, and they seem to, then it stands to reason that whatever this phenomenon is (it's not a cop, not a team, only a list of potential relationships, and thus systems) it will not be an effective means of development. If you do include material on the use of cops in development, a critical review maybe in the light of new research by Dunbar and colleagues might prove useful. I can refer you to the relevant sources.

        Peter


        ========================================
        Message Received: Aug 07 2012, 08:34 PM
        From: "John David Smith"
        To: "'KM4Dev'"
        Cc: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [cp] RE: [km4dev-l] Using community of practice *theories* when setting up networks... Any experiences?

        Hi Arwen and everybody,



        I think it’s worth noticing what that advisor is asking you and wondering what that question means and what might be behind it? Specifically, “add a section on CoPs and development since there are quite a lot of websites that are CoP focussed but not all using the idea in the same way” and “a good picture of current research on CoPs-development-Africa, or if I am missing something because of the boundaries of my own practice?”



        I think that being aware of the boundaries of our own practice (as you mention) is one way of “using community of practice theories”. Who we know and what those people talk about and how they talk all make a big difference on our “knowing.”



        It’s interesting to me we conventionally assume that learning in our own field or our own context is different, somehow, from the rest. As in learning in the field of healthcare for doctors is different than for nurses, in Jewish synagogues is different than in a Unitarian church, and engineering education is different from teacher education, to name some of the “places” where I’ve heard it claimed. I’m not saying it’s all the same, but I’m always struck by the claim because it’s usually an unreflected-upon-claim, not something that people examine carefully.



        So one use of community of practice theories is to help us bridge across fields and contexts and ask, “how different, exactly, are you? Or am I?”



        Etienne has written about the evolution of the concept here: http://wenger-trayner.com/resources/publications/cops-and-learning-systems/



        And Jean Lave observed that the meaning of the term when applied is subject to some kind of evolution & variation – people mean what they want by it (and that’s interesting, useful, and shocking). Here’s a snippet in the context of geographers and economic development, "Epilogue: Situated Learning and Changing Practice" pp 283-296 in Ash Amin and Joanne Roberts (eds), Community, Economic Creativity, and Organization (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) http://isbn.nu/978-0-19-954550-6



        "In taking up the opportunity so kindly extended by Amin and Roberts [the book editors] to learn first hand about contemporary work on 'communities of practice' in the field of management studies, I have repeatedly had the fun of being surprised (both delighted and shocked) at the changing employment of 'communities of practice'. In my own work I have continued to pursue the path we began to set out in Situated Learning. Clearly I believe our 'take' on communities of practice was part of a powerful and productive approach to social analysis. But it is also clear that this is now just one conception of communities of practice among others. So go changing knowledgeabilities-in-practice."



        Jean Lave also talks about how the social learning theories apply to “us, as researchers or observers,” in Apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011) http://isbn.nu/9780226470726 . Proposing to make claims that can’t be challenged or are completely decontextualized scientific knowledge puts us toward the left side of this table:


        TABLE 2. Underlying binary relations


        Formal education (schooling)

        versus

        Informal education (apprenticeship)


        Experimental method

        versus

        Ethnographic/qualitative research


        Decontextualized scientific knowledge

        versus

        Everyday knowing in context


        General theory

        versus

        Specific applications, applied fields

        She talks about these issues in a lecture on YouTube that’s really interesting.



        To me, community of practice theories go to core questions of how we learn, how we know, and who we are. And I think those questions matter, not only in development, in Africa, but in a lot of other places and contexts that I can think of. One consequence of my hang-up on those theories is that I take the time to write this kind of long statement, when I “should be” working on other things!



        John

        * John David Smith ~ Voice: 503.963.8229 ~ Skype & Twitter: smithjd http://gplus.to/smithjd

        * Portland, Oregon, USA http://www.learningAlliances.net

        * Join our Ning Stackathon at http://cpsquare.org/wiki/Ning_Stackathon_project

        * “We are as autonomous with regard to technology as we are with regard to

        * language, oxygen, or gravity.” - Peter-Paul Verbeek



        From: arwenb@... [mailto:arwenb@...]
        Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 3:25 AM
        To: KM4Dev
        Subject: [km4dev-l] Using community of practice *theories* when setting up networks... Any experiences?



        Dear all



        Thank you all for your kind consideration of my question.



        Josef - Thank you. I will be able to access the Top Ten oncemy membership of the KM4Dev LinkedIn group is approved and then will take a look.



        Susan - are your networks within SNV?or across different organizations



        I think, as Nancy suggests, it is best if i give more context to my question.



        I have recently completed a MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice and the focus of my research was using social learning systems, and particularly CoP theory as a lens for looking at the potential of a sustainable fellowship alumni network. I have read much of Wenger, and also Digital Habitats, and been in touch through CPSquare with John D Smith and Tony Carr (at the beginning though not recently).



        Now I am writing an article drawing on my research, which i would like to submit to a peer-reviewed journal and one of my professors has commented that she was wondering if i have picked up enough refs to others working in development who have used CoP theories. She has suggested I might usefully add a section on CoPs and development since there are quite a lot of websites that are CoP focussed but not all using the idea in the same way: as you say below Nancy: the different uses of CoP ideas



        My potential network is women in lots of different organizations. Most of the research I have seen is about networks at insitutional level, or within an organization. But I have not found any research on inter-organizational groups (such as KM4Dev), and most of the formal research I have seen has been on using CoP theories to inform your work rather then understanding your work. Actually no, most of it starts from the reified idea of a CoP as something you can set up and then researches how to do that better.My impressions are also that there is a lot going on in a formal sense, in South Africa, and that the main domains being researched and written about are Health and Higher Education, less Agriculture or Development.



        I was wondering if what I am seeing is a good picture of current research on CoPs-development-Africa, or if I am missing something because of the boundaries of my own practice?



        And hence my question to Ewen. Have i made things clearer or muddier now? The aim in short is to provide a solid context for the claims in my paper which is about looking with CoP-eyes (and social learning eyes) at a group of African women in agricultural research and development.



        Any help welcome. Thank you.



        Arwen













        ----Messaggio originale----
        Da: nancyw@...
        Data: 07/08/2012 2.37
        A: "KM4Dev"
        Ogg: [km4dev-l] Using community of practice *theories* when setting up networks... Any experiences?

        There are a lot of people who a) use CoP theories in informing their works and the inverse b) use CoP theories to understand their work. I think the difference is useful. IN fact Jenny Mackness posted on this just today (although in a different domain - education) https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/a-social-theory-of-learning-schools-and-landscapes-of-practice/

        Currently I'm working with some of IFAD's agricultural CoPs. Tony Carr is looking at CoPs of African educators (or more precisely, connecting CoPs into a larger network, which I think goes beyond CoP theory but is REALLY important).

        It would be useful to know more context about Arwen's inquiry. Maybe she can interview or query the community on the list?

        Nancy

        At 12:14 AM 8/6/2012, you wrote:



        Hello all,

        Someone (Arwen Bailey) posted this interesting question on the CGIAR Yammer network recently:
        I am interested in the ways people use Communities of Practice theories when designing networks and am trying to get a feel for others—particularly in Africa—working in development, agriculture and/or ARD who have used CoP theories.
        Can anyone give me any leads?

        Would any of you have or know some of those leads?
        Thanks for any pointers, I'll pass them on to Arwen :)

        Ewen

        Please take a look at the KM4dev Knowledge Base wiki, where we encourage you to summarize discussion threads:http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_KnowledgeKM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches. To unsubscribe from this list, send a blank message to leave.km4dev-l@.... Please check out our website:http://www.km4dev.org

        You are receiving this message because you are a member of the community KM4Dev .

        A reply to this message will be sent to all members of KM4Dev.

        Reply to sender | Unsubscribe

        Please take a look at the KM4dev Knowledge Base wiki, where we encourage you to summarize discussion threads:

        http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_Knowledge

        KM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches. To unsubscribe from this list, send a blank message to leave.km4dev-l@.... Please check out our website:

        http://www.km4dev.org

        You are receiving this message because you are a member of the community KM4Dev .

        A reply to this message will be sent to all members of KM4Dev.

        Reply to sender | Unsubscribe







        Please take a look at the KM4dev Knowledge Base wiki, where we encourage you to summarize discussion threads:

        http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_Knowledge

        KM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches. To unsubscribe from this list, send a blank message to leave.km4dev-l@.... Please check out our website:

        http://www.km4dev.org

        You are receiving this message because you are a member of the community KM4Dev .

        A reply to this message will be sent to all members of KM4Dev.

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