Communities of Practice

A community of practice (CoP) brings together a group who share a common interest or domain to exchange ideas on approaches, develop skills, and collaborate in a peer-to-peer setting.  

A CoP can be designed for different levels of experience, different organizations, or locations. Some CoPs advance a specific technical approach or methodology, others support an emergent knowledge area.  

Members engage at regular times over a specific duration to exchange ideas, experiences, and best practices, or problem-solving related to their shared domain of interest.   

Photo by Brian Wangenheim

Communities of Practice (CoP) are an important way SI Canada pollinates knowledge and know-how across jurisdictions and between people.  We use this methodology as a way to weave relationships, seed ideas, and accelerate what is working for community-based knowledge to be shared through peer-to-peer experiences.  

Over time, SI Canada developed three streams of CoPs called, “Learn, Share, Build”. Each has a different purpose to meet the objectives of the participants. 


Practitioners in the Learn stream focus on sharing knowledge of new methodologies, exploring how to apply a methodology, or adapting a process for a specific setting. Knowledge can come from members of the group; as well as, from experts within a domain. An example of this is the CoP on Inclusive Economies for Mid-Sized Cities where four Ontario cities shared examples of how social procurement, community benefit agreements, and inclusive workplace charters could be applied in their regions. Participants each brought expertise in one of the areas of learning; as well, experts were sought when needed for more technical insights.


Practitioners in the Share/Connect stream aim to broker new relationships and receive updates from the field. It usually includes people from a range of experiences and benefits from an online connectivity tool to help people engage with one another. An example was bi-monthly sessions facilitated by SI Canada on topics related to Social R&D. Formats such as a Peer Input Process or Open Space sessions were used to keep informed on what is going on in the field, identify opportunities for collaboration, and connect practitioners. In addition, our online tool/platform (Common Platform) was leveraged to connect practitioners and support them to engage with one another.


Practitioners in the Build stream have identified specific goals they want to accomplish. For example; this stream of the Social R&D CoP was designed to engage more experienced practitioners who are eager to contribute towards building the social R&D field and are looking to establish their role as thought leaders. Practitioners in this stream engaged on an as-needed basis to form working groups around specific projects. These working groups supported the development of tangible outputs and events to advance the social R&D field.