Getting off to a quick start

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"A bright idea"

What does it take to turn a group of workers from different agencies and locations — with different skills and backgrounds — into a knowledge-sharing entity known as a community of practice? Cport, the CD-based guidebook to communities of practice developed by the Navy's chief information officer, suggests these steps to a quick start:

* A core group, composed of the initial community members, decides on the building blocks of the community — its identity, membership, and roles and responsibilities — how it will publicize its activities to draw new members and how those members will interact.

* The core group holds a workshop for the community as a way of engaging members and encouraging their continued involvement. Besides identifying what knowledge the community members have to share, a high priority is planning how to communicate that knowledge. At the same time, members begin building the network of relationships that are crucial to the community's success.

* After the first workshop ends, the core group checks the community's progress for such issues as whether the community has the backing of a respected leader, whether members' bosses agree to give them time away from their work to participate and whether members have the technological tools for collaboration and the expertise to use them.

* The community builds an "experience locator," which includes key information about members' work experience, expertise, special abilities and personal interests.

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