Skip to main content

Table 2 Characteristics of communities of practice identified from the literature [6]

From: A realist evaluation of the role of communities of practice in changing healthcare practice


Findings from the literature review

Membership and practice

• One becomes a member through shared practice [32]

• CoPs help establish professional identity [7]

• Members have a common goal or purpose [32]

• Membership often crossed geographical, professional, and/or organisational boundaries [6]

• Membership group and size is not fixed and can vary from time to time [6, 33]

• The focus of the group may vary over time [33]

Activities and communication methods

• Members exchange knowledge through formal and informal processes. Formal methods of interaction include face-to-face meetings within or external to usual workplace and/or virtual methods that include communication via email and/or blogs [6]

• Social interaction, in person or through the use of communication technology, is an important feature of a CoP identity [7]


• Spontaneous origin or established as a management initiative [6]

• CoPs have five stages of development: potential, coalescing, maturing, stewardship, and transformation [2]

Determinants of success

• A committed facilitator [6]

• Shared purpose [34]

• Commitment and enthusiasm from the members [34]

• Endorsement of the CoP from senior management and alignment of the CoP objectives with the organisation goals [35, 36]

• A CoP with self-selected membership may be more successful than a CoP with externally appointed members [34]

• Regular communication with, and interaction between members [37]

• Developing relationships through face-to-face interactions, even to start with, is important [36]

• Infrastructure to support the work of the CoP in terms of ease of access to knowledge or evidence [34]