What’s a Community of Practice?

Have you ever felt that you’re the only person in the world facing particular challenges? That no one else is dealing with the same issues you’re dealing with every day? That you’d better come up with a solution since no one else has done so?   

Well, chances are, you’re not alone. And there are many professionals in the community planning world that are dealing with, or have dealt with, the same or similar issues.  

That’s the benefit of a Community of Practice (CoP). In short, a CoP is: “a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Lave & Wenger, 1990) 

CoPs comprise three distinct elements:  
  • A community that enables interaction (e.g., by way of discussions, webinars, collaborative activities) 
  • A shared domain/field of interest (e.g., housing planning) 
  • Shared practice of ways of addressing recurring challenges (e.g., experiences, stories, tools, strategies) 
Benefits of CoPs include: 
  • Continual learning/professional development 
  • Access to expertise 
  • Increased networking and sense of professional identity 
  • Reduced time to find information and reinventing the wheel 
  • Building social capital 
A Good CoP Example

WCS Engagement + Planning is supporting Small Housing in the development of a gentle density CoP. Named the Gentle Density Network, this burgeoning group of local government planners is focusing on accelerating and scaling up implementation of gentle density infill housing in communities around BC. Launched at the Gentle Density Summit in November, the Network held one webinar in February focusing on backyard homes/infill development in Edmonton and will be hosting the next one on March 29th on land economics. In June, the Gentle Density Network will be hosting an in-person social event at the PIBC conference in Sun Peaks! Hope to see you there!  


For more information on CoPs or the Gentle Density Network, contact Cheeying at cho[at]whistlercentre.ca or go to Small Housing BC’s Gentle Density Network page. 


Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press