University of Wisconsin–Madison

How to Create a Community of Practice

Step 1: Involve members of your group

CoPs are communities, first and foremost. We recommend that CoP reflection and planning occur with as many CoP members as possible. The more group member involvement, the more successful the CoP. The tools provided at this site can be sent to CoP members ahead of a CoP annual review meeting, for example, and discussed at the meeting.

Step 2: Review the Phases of a CoP

Whether you are just starting out or already have a thriving CoP, you should review the phases of a CoP to better understand how CoPs begin, grown and thrive. See “The 5 Phases of CoPs” for an overview of the 5 phases. Visit each phase page for more details.

Step 3: Use CoP Roadmap to find where you are and where you want to be

The Roadmap is a guide to creating, reinvigorating or transforming a community of practice. Where is your CoP now? Where would you like to be? Remember, it may be best to navigate your CoP journey as a group or at least with a few group members. Questions from the CoP Roadmap can form the basis of a survey sent to CoP members for feedback.

Step 4: Rinse & Repeat

CoPs can be best understood as organic lifeforms. They are created, they grow, they change and sometimes they fade away. The most successful groups continuously reflect and evaluate.

CoP Guide PDF


Wenger-Traynor, E. & Wenger-Traynor, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.