Community of practice adoption in government agencies

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 14, 2005
Filed in Collaboration

Government agencies have for some time embraced the idea of communities of practice. Australia seems to be behind the US and Europe in adopting CoPs but it might be simply that Australians tend to avoid trumpeting their successes and agencies haven’t described their CoP activities. I’m personally aware of a number of CoP efforts in the following Australian government agencies, but to my knowledge they haven’t been publicly described:

  • Australian Tax Office
  • Victorian Department of Justice
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Immigration

 Do you know of others?

I decided to have a look on the web for other public sector cases studies. Here is what I found so far after a preliminary search.

Communities of Practice: A New Tool for Government Managers is an excellent 84 page report by William Snyder and Xavier de Souza Briggs. It describes 4 case studies, 3 are examples of interdepartmental CoPs and the fourth operates within an agency.

The mission of the Education Community of Practice is to:

The mission of the Education Community of Practice is to ‘promote and support the adoption of the philosophy, methods, tools and techniques of Excellence by all education organisations in Europe and the rest of the world to develop and share good practice amongst ourselves and the other networks we belong to’

The World Bank has 79 internal communities of practice they call Thematic Groups

The Department of Education for Northern Ireland has implemented a set of technology to support their community of practice initiative.

US Department of Navy and Defense Acquisition University have developed a Program Management CoP Risk Management Community. To quote from this article:

The PM CoP Risk Management Community, which currently has over 500 members including many of the top government and industry risk professionals, has developed just-in-time learning, collaboration, and performance support tools to improve overall on-the-job risk management performance.

If we are to see communities of practice widely adopted we will need access to more case studies. Decision makers need to know other organisations like their own are taking this approach and it is delivering benefits.

Do you have any favourite case studies that illustrate CoPs in government agencies?

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Hi Shawn,
    I’ll add to the list the CoP that sits *between* government agencies, the “Intranet Peers in Government” group:
    (It’s really running hot at the moment, which is great.)
    Cheers, James

  2. Edward Backhouse says:

    Thanks Shawn, another useful post!

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