Communities of practice and networks: reviewing two perspectives on social learning


  • Sarah Cummings
  • Arin van Zee


This paper examines the similarities between the concepts of ‘community of practice' (Wenger 1997) and ‘networking for learning' (Engel and Salomon 1997, and others). These concepts come from divergent traditions: the former has its roots in knowledge management and the latter comes from agricultural knowledge systems and soft-systems analysis. Although stemming from different strands of thinking, there are some common concepts and common elements. For both approaches, the characteristics, theoretical background and importance for development are explored. Next, similarities based on conceptions of social learning are explored. Finally, it is argued that communities of practice and networks for learning are part of the same continuum with varying degrees of formality, ranging from informal communities of practice to highly formal networks for learning.

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