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‘What does a community of practice mean to you?’ BILT Annual Conference blog Series

The BILT Annual Conference for 2023 is centred on the theme of ‘Building community and belonging in a challenging and changing world’. One of the phrases that is sometimes heard in this regard is ‘communities of practice’. What is meant by this term and what relevance might it have to all of us?  

Etienne Wenger’s ‘Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity’ (1998) builds on an earlier collaboration with Jean Lave (1991) and this book, in particular, outlines the social nature at the heart of this phrase. For Wenger, there are three dimensions in which practice can shape community: mutual engagement; joint enterprise; and shared repertoires. These are not the only aspects Wenger outlines, for example there are discussions on the interplay between participation and reification in how meanings in communities may be negotiated.  

Dimensions of practice as the property of a community. In the centre there are three elements: joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire. Each has a connected bubble with key words relating to them.

These dimensions aren’t meant to be viewed as an inventory or checklist of constituent parts, but invite consideration and reflection of the ‘what’ and ‘how’. Wenger emphasises the dynamic nature of communities and with a keen eye on ‘learning as a process of social participation’, the ways that people may come to form, sustain and develop such communities.  

Although Wenger’s suggestion that CoP are a group of people ‘who engage in a process of collective learning as part of a process of collecting as part of a shared human endeavour’ is originally focussed on work-place learning, the concept has since been applied to many other contexts, including learning within universities.  

So, as part of the first post in our monthly blog series linked to the conference, we are inviting responses to the question – ‘What does a community of practice mean to you?’.  

The format of the response is entirely open. It could take the form of a photography, a piece of creative writing, a piece of writing, poetry, an artefact, a poster, or any other medium. We hope to share some of these responses at our conference. 

You can send your contributions to:  

Read all blogs in the series

Follow all the conference updates on Twitter using #BILTCon23

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