Alex Smith from Housing First England writes about developing housing management in Housing First.
What are Communities of Practice? To quote Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Traynor*(1), they are; “groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”.
*(1) Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Traynor are globally recognised leaders in the field of social learning and communities of practice.
Often, we are so busy in our work role that we don’t have time to stop and consider if our current practice is the only and best way. Everyone is busy, often with challenging caseloads, however this does not affect staff's commitment to doing the very best for the people they are supporting.
As Housing First professionals, you are supporting people experiencing the most complex challenges of their lives. There are numerous challenges, but because we know Housing First is effective, we are committed to providing the very best support.
The Communities of Practice has been developed in recognition of those challenges. It is also a recognition of the commitment, experience and knowledge that workers hold and provides the opportunity to draw on these resources to shape services, create solutions and improve on processes.
There are many benefits that can come from being part of a Community of Practice: *(2)
- Accelerating professional development across the organisation and beyond
- Breaking down organisational silos
- Sharing knowledge and building better practice
- Happier, more motivated people
*(2) Building Successful Communities of Practice. Discover how connecting people makes better organisations. Emily Webber. (2016)
Physically, there can be large distances between workers. Some are lone workers and there are always huge benefits of coming together as professionals.
Communities of Practice enable frontline staff to meet, share their experiences and knowledge with the ultimate aim of providing the best services and support. Often, we may share the same challenges but have very different experiences. This provides a wider range of knowledge to draw upon when problem solving. These collaborative processes encourage the flow of ideas and exchange of information.
Why focus on communities of practice? *(3)
- Help with challenges
- Access to expertise
- Fun with colleagues
- Meaningful work
- Problem solving
- Time saving
- Knowledge sharing
- Synergies across sectors or districts
- Reuse of resources
- Personal development
- Enhanced reputation
- Professional identity
- Strategic capabilities
- Keeping up to date
- Retention of talents
- New strategies
* (3) From Wenger's Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Quick Start-Up Guide
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