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Communities of Practice

Overhead photo of a table covered with laptops, mobile phones and tablets, with hands of people using them.

Communities of Practice (CoPs) are an important part of the devolved model at Shelter 

These networks of practitioners are involved in the continuous optimisation of the digital framework, which sets out the landscape in which they can do their work, and how they can work together.   

CoPs are cross-organisational groups that are non-hierarchical and long-term, and focus on how to accomplish something rather than what it delivers. They can define best practice, create learning opportunities, reduce duplication, or be used as support networks.

If your role has a digital element to it, you’re expected to be part of a Community of Practice. It’s a great way to be inspired, build relationships, and learn from each other. It's also a chance to make sure all teams are involved and aligned. 

Importantly, they are a safe space to share knowledge and help practitioners in different teams to stay aligned.

Communities of Practice focus on how to accomplish something rather than what it delivers.

At Shelter, we define Communities of Practice as:  

A network of practitioners of the same discipline who meet regularly to share, develop and define their practice. 

Who constitutes a practitioner?  

A practitioner is someone who practices the discipline professionally in their role at Shelter, rather than just having an interest in it.  

Communities of Practice in action, and their leads 

Our current working CoPs and their leads (as of January 2022) are: 

  • Content - Eleanor Young

  • Product - Caspar Below

  • Data & Analysis - Sam Berger

  • UX - Amy Everett

  • Development - Neil Dakeyne

  • Accessibility - Lizzie Nightingale

If there’s a community of practice you would like to join, you’re welcome to contact one of these CoP leads.

'Generally each UX practitioner works in a different product area in Shelter, so coming together to exchange thinking and develop documentation as a Community of Practice ensures that we include the needs of all the teams and user groups we work with across Shelter. For things like accessibility, this helps us move away from the idea that this is one person’s or team's responsibility to manage.'

Caylee Farndon-Taylor, UX Lead (February 2021)

Roles and responsibilities of Communities of Practice at Shelter 

As well as being used as a knowledge sharing and development space, CoPs at Shelter have an organisational responsibility to create and co-own the working principles, guidelines and standards for all our digital products. 

The Communities of Practice groups also own success metrics, and should define how their discipline measures success.  

All CoP groups report to the Digital Leadership Group (DLG), comprised of senior people from across the organisation who steer Shelter’s digital planning.

Outcomes and format 

CoP groups will aim to achieve the following outcomes:  

  • Regular meetings  

  • Practitioners from across the organisation brought together with a shared purpose  

  • Sessions focused on sharing or doing  

  • Opportunities for collaboration 

  • Build conversations between teams across the organisation who practice the same disciplines  

All groups follow a similar format:  

  • Each session will have a facilitator, a theme, and a focus  

  • Activities will include (but are not limited to) workshops, presentations, demos, group discussion, evaluation, and clinics  

  • Membership will extend to practitioners only, rather than to everyone with an interest 

  • Communication will be via a formal email group and dedicated Slack channel 

Setting up new Communities of Practice  

All new Communities of Practice groups must be approved by the Digital Leadership Group. 

'I’ve been designing things in an attempt to make people's lives better for a little over 10 years now. Yet on my own, or from behind my desk, I am nowhere near the level of knowledge and efficiency that a diverse community brings in the face of complex societal problems.

‘Shelter’s UX Community of Practice (UXCoP) is a thriving space of insight that leads to innovation. It’s where a blank canvas of a practitioner scratching their head becomes proficient in everything from facilitation skills to complex process and service visualisation.’

Nate Sheach, Senior Content Owner, Scotland (April 2021)

More from a CoP master

Emily Webber wrote a definitive book, Building Successful Communities of Practice.
Visit her blog or watch her on YouTube.

Learn the lingo

Read our digital glossary

Contact us about the digital framework

Have a question or comment? Found a bug? Or maybe you’d like to contribute to the framework? Use our contact form to get in touch.

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