When I think of what a community of practice is, I notice I can easily go to a vision of a rather dry gathering of experts. I know that they can be a genuine community of exchange and empowerment. But when I experience them from the inside they are often places of so much more: places of wonder, of aliveness, of growth and compassion.
I worked with a group of diverse healthcare professionals—doctors, nurses, counsellors, administrators, managers, and charity workers—who came together to form a Community of Practice to share experiences of what it took to succeed within the demanding environment of the National Health Service in the UK. That was the “formal” content. What they actually shared was themselves! Their hearts, their joys, their pain, their hopes, their frustrations, their terrors—and their support for each other.
With minimal but carefully designed starting conditions—agreed-on confidentiality, speaking from the “I”, nothing out of bounds, a willingness to really listen—a sacred space was created that was whole-heartedly stepped into. So much emerged in a short time, and I am convinced that bonds of connection and friendship were formed there that will have persisted over the intervening two years.
Why should this be so?
I see a deep yearning for connection amongst so many of us today, connections way beyond “the transactional” and the mutual display of tired egos. I see a yearning for communion with our deepest selves. For so many of us, this is rare or completely absent in our working lives—and for some, absent in our wider lives, too. While this might not be the expectation or even the intention when establishing a Community of Practice, it is nonetheless a fantastic outcome.
To see a young trainee nurse, as I did, grow from a quiet, fearful, reluctant participant into someone leading a passionate discussion with senior doctors and senior managers, in the space of a few days of meeting, is to see the blooming of a human spirit, a spirit now able to speak their truth full-throated into the world and to have the world be a better place because of them doing so. THAT is the Community of Practice we would all surely want to be a part of.
Tim combines his diverse and extended organisational and consulting experience with his passion to develop others and help them bring fulfillment to their purpose. He specialises in working with “stuck” systems and in particular where relationships are key to achieving collective success. He is passionate about Shakespeare and bringing poetry and story into organisational life. Contact Tim via email “email@example.com” or via LinkedIn.