Introduction to CoPs

A Community of Practice (CoP) is defined as “a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise by interacting on an ongoing basis.1” The three distinct elements that comprise a CoP are a community that enables interaction (such as discussions, collaborative activities, and relationship building); a shared domain of interest (such as such as vaccine stability or injury prevention); and a shared practice of experiences, stories, tools, and ways of addressing recurring problems. This approach enables public health professionals to grow and mature while focusing on efforts to share knowledge and solve problems.

Although not formally termed “Communities of Practice,” CoPs exist across disciplines and in many domains of your personal and professional world. You may already be a member of a CoP through a professional affiliation, by geographical community ties, or in an educational endeavor. Your level of involvement in a community is up to you; you may be an occasional participant in some and a leader or core member in others. For instance, many departments of education build CoPs around domains such as curricula and teacher best practices. Medical practices form CoPs around innovations in delivery of care or maximizing existing resources. An active residential homeowner’s association is a clear example of a community of practice.