Building a Community of Practice
There are many different actions organizations can take to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This is truly a journey without a destination.
But how do people responsible for driving this work decide what to prioritize and how to implement promising practices in their unique organizations? How do they react when new issues occur? How do they make sure they constantly learn and stay motivated along the way?
One way to achieve this is through a Community of Practice. A Community of Practice is an innovative model of action learning and knowledge sharing. It brings together a group of people who share a common passion or concern that they want to better understand and learn how to do it even better.
Community of Practice sessions are designed to give participants the ability to reflect and learn from each other, whether it be by sharing challenges, successes, new insights, or promising practices. Participants then discuss actions that they take away and implement at their respective workplaces.
TRIEC’s Community of Practice for Diversity and Inclusion
TRIEC recently piloted a Community of Practice, not only to share promising practices, but also to generate and implement new strategies around advancing inclusion in the workplace.
TRIEC brought together 13 organizations from the private, public and non-profit sectors to help participating organizations take a more strategic approach to workplace inclusion and generate knowledge about building inclusive workplaces. Together, they explored how diversity and inclusion practitioners can use leading models, theories and practices to move the needle on the inclusion in their organizations.
Organizations that took part included the LCBO, Bell, Regional Municipality of Durham, York Regional Police and Export Development Canada (EDC), among others.
How did it work?
During TRIEC’s Community of Practice sessions, facilitators designed sessions in a way that gave participants the space to go through a process of learning. By doing so, they aimed to generate new insights and knowledge by providing an opportunity for the group to go through a process of dialogue, action, and reflection on that action.
The facilitators encouraged participants to share their experiences on related diversity and inclusion issues that they were trying to address. They asked participants to reflect on the actions they had taken so far, what they learned from it, and also to go back to their organization and take further action. Participants then shared their actions with others and reflected upon them at subsequent meetings.
Additionally, facilitators gave participants new concepts to use as a catalyst for generating new ideas and insights as a group, which they could then take back to their organizations and incorporate into their diversity and inclusion work.
What was learned?
Throughout the Community of Practice, the group generated insights and increased their knowledge and understanding of the diversity and inclusion related themes that were discussed. The themes that emerged that were common to all participants regardless of where they were in their journey included:
- The need for an organizational diversity and inclusion framework
- Helping employees and middle management understand how various diversity and inclusion initiatives had related back to the overall strategy of creating an inclusive culture
- Identifying with a word that was more comprehensive than inclusion
How to build your own Community of Practice
By applying TRIEC’s learnings from the Community of Practice pilot project, your organization can also use this approach to strengthen your training and support participants to take action.
Follow these tips when building and running a Community of Practice:
- Take time to build trust so that participants can openly share with and learn from one another. By creating a safe space, participants will be more comfortable about opening up and having honest discussions about what initiatives have or have not worked for them.
- A Community of Practice works well for participants who are reflective, action-oriented, and eager to learn. The more the participants shared and contributed to the group, the more they found it effective and useful and were able to learn from the group discussions.
- Include a mix of sectors and industries to ensure there is a breadth of experience and different perspectives.
- Similarly, include organizations that are at different stages of their diversity and inclusion journey to enable the group to focus on reflecting on the foundations of the work related to distinguishing between a framework, strategy and lines of action.
- Organizations at various stages of the diversity and inclusion work benefit from reflecting on the fundamental issues. They also wanted to focus on discussing smaller practical issues that would enable them to have quick wins in their organization.
- Ensure that attendees are directly responsible for driving diversity and inclusion in their workplace. Community of Practice is all about taking action and sharing and learning from real-life examples.
- Go deep – you are addressing complex issues that need a nuanced approach. Host in-depth meetings multiple times to ensure that participants get value out of them.