11.3.3 How to establish a Community of Practice?

Research into online communities indicates that the main factors of success of communities are organizational structures and conditions as well as human factors1. Technology supports the interaction processes but is not one of the main driving factors. For Preece2, online communities consist of people, who interact socially to satisfy needs, perform roles, etc., a shared purpose, that provides a reason for the community, policies, that guide peoples interaction

In their “template for success”, Kimbal and Ladd3 offer a practical summary of steps to launch and sustain a virtual community of practice. By following these 15 steps we present the requirements for the establishment of a successful community of practice

Steps of CoP4

To find out more about each step click on the respective boxes.



These fifteen practical tips cover a wide range of topics on how to maintain a community of practice successfully. A very important step therefore is the preparation of the community (tips 1 to 5) and the kick-off/start phase (tips 6 to 8). For sustained success it is important to have enough resources for the preparation phase and to involve important “stakeholders” early. Tips 9 to 14 refer to the day-to-day maintenance of a community of practice. Therefore it is important to be aware of the moderation (management) of communication. Finally, tip 15 refers to the evaluation of the community of practice and to the management of changes, which are very important questions. Communities of practice might start with very specific tasks and might be closed after the fulfillment of the task. However a CoP can also sustain and change focus but this has to be guided, evaluated and moderated. 5

 Figure 5 shows possible components of a community platform6

1 Hildreth, P., Kimble, C. (2002) "The duality of knowledge"
2 Preece, J., 2000, “Online Communities. Designing, Usability, Supporting Sociability”
3 Kimball, L., Ladd, A. (2004) "Facilitator Toolkit for Building and Sustaining Virtual Communities of Practice
4 lbid
5 www.ewenger.com/theory/
6 Lucko, S., Trauner, B. (2005) “Wissensmanagement 7 Bausteine für die Umsetzung in der Praxis”