Simple rules for CoP self-organisation

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —March 20, 2005
Filed in Collaboration

Communities of practice are often regarded, with good reason, as self-organising social systems. I was wondering the other day whether some simple rules for a community of practice could encourage beneficial self-organisation, enhancing learning. Here are a few possibilities.

Find others in the community who care about the same things as you, and share an activity with them. Then tell the community what you’ve done.

Learning comes from action, and volunteer activities draw their energy from your enthusiasm or concern. So finding and working with people who are inspired by the same things as you enables a small group to make significant headway. Small, passionate groups operating inside a larger community form the basis for open source communities, such as Linux – a model that has become very successful.

Hold meetings on the same day and time of the month.

Establishing a rhythm of activities helps the community to grow. Knowing that, whatever the topic, there will be like-minded people attending the meeting, gives everyone a reason to turn up, to meet new people, hear fresh perspectives, and learn from the encounter.

Everyone plays a role in organising activities of the community of practice.

Encouraging people to band together to organise activities (speakers, site visits, reviewing articles, workshops) fosters community. This rule doesn’t mean that everyone must join the core team – people on the periphery can contribute by simply making suggestions. But without this rule, it’s easy for the community to rely on the same people to do all those beneficial, community-building, day-to-day activities.

Can you think of other simple rules which might help a community of practice self-organise?


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. Column Two says:

    Simple rules for CoP self-organisation

    Shawn Callahan has written a blog entry outlining some simple rules for CoP self-organisation. To quote: Communities of practice are often regarded, with good reason, as self-organising social systems. I was wondering the other day whether some simple …

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    (1) Kind of a ‘meta-rule’ — Self-select a coordinator-of-the-month whose task is to connect the CoP — send interesting news, organize events, tell everyone what others are doing, just be a ‘connector’.
    (2) Teach everyone in the group Chris Corrigan’s Four Practices and other Open Space techniques:

  3. Thanks for the comments Dave. I’m wondering how can we best encourage the self-selection you suggest?
    Yes, the open space principles are a great addition to the set. Thanks for pointing them out to me.

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