Using online communications technologies and communities of practice to strengthen researcher-decision maker partnerships
Successful knowledge transfer is all about relationships. As anyone who has conducted research with non-academic partners knows, it takes a considerable amount of time and effort for these relationships to be fruitful. The great benefit of placing this work within the context of a community of practice is that it gives researchers and decision makers a structure within which to interact. This study explored ways in which a community of practice framework can be used to develop and nurture relationships between researchers and decision makers. Further, it investigated how these communities of practice can be supported by online communications technologies. Its major contribution is the development, testing and refinement of a checklist of six ways that researchers can connect with decision makers in communities of practice, both in person and online. This checklist provides concrete, practical suggestions on how to develop an effective community of practice. Items in the checklist are based on both the academic literature on knowledge transfer and communities of practice, and the author’s experience as part of an academic research unit focused on conducting collaborative research with community and government partners. Each item in the checklist was validated through interviews with members of two communities of practice. While the initial checklist had five items, a sixth was added following analysis of the interviews. This checklist is generalizable, in that it can help guide any kind of community of practice, not just those in which members work on early childhood development issues, nor those communities in which researchers and decision makers interact. It is a valuable contribution to knowledge transfer methods at a time when both interest levels and efforts to improve knowledge implementation are widespread. The final checklist reads as follows: A community of practice should: 1. provide opportunities for regular interaction between community members; 2. allow members to participate at varying levels that can change over time; 3. provide both public and private spaces for interaction; 4. document its goals, activities and outcomes, in order to develop a knowledge repository; 5. identify and document the value of the community itself; and 6. enlist the guidance of a technology champion in order to use online communications technologies effectively.
communities of practice; knowledge transfer; onlin
Master of Arts (M.A.)