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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

Characteristic 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]
Origin • 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]