Aim 1: A community of practice for community researchers and practitioners

by Ella Kotze

One of the three main aims of the Community Research and Action Network is “to create and maintain a community of practice for community researchers and practitioners in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa”. A community of practice can be defined as “a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”.

Etienne Wenger further expands on the concept by providing the following components that necessarily form part of a community of practice:

  • There needs to be a shared domain of interest – in this case the domain can be defined as a shared interest in the achievement of social justice through a commitment to informed community-based research and practice.
  • There needs to be a community – the members of the network – who interact and engage with each other on topics within the specified domain, who help each other and who share information with each other.
  • There needs to be a practice. Members of the CoP need to move beyond mere interest to become active practitioners who develop a shared repertoire of resources  – including stories, tools and experiences – over time.

For those of us involved in community-based work, the experience can often become lonely and isolated. Practitioners feel that they have limited or no support beyond the support they receive from funders and, as we often work in multi-disciplinary contexts, discussing a particular issue with a colleague can be difficult as you have to “translate” the issue and your understanding of it across points of view.

It is hoped that the establishment of this network will decrease the spaces between practitioners, so that we may build on our interests and experiences to achieve our shared vision of social justice. I would therefore like to encourage you to make use of this space to air your views and share your experiences. Let us know where you work, what you focus on, what your needs are and what you would like to share. This is where it all begins. The time to act is now.

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