A community of practice in the procurement department
The procurement of materials and equipment such as schoolbooks and construction materials by government officials for the construction of public services and infrastructure involves contracting agencies that provide such services. These processes are often plagued with wastage of public resources, mismanagement, corruption, and graft. In this regard, Community-Led Procurement (CLP) allows local communities to control and implements the procurement process. They achieve this by creating groups that lead to accountability and openness, improved value of money, reduced wastage, and corruption, better quality of services and works and increased use of local contractors and workers. CLP also assists local community members to develop according to their vision (Alvesson & Karreman, 2007).
All government procurement programs have been plagued by waste and inefficiencies. The local communities have been lacking knowledge in terms of actors, processes, and costs involved. Cumbersome and slow systems of transferring finances have been a hindering the process of procurement and rendering it obscure (Brown & Duguid, 2001). Lack of accountability and transparencies has made the process of procurement susceptible to corruption and abuse of funds. The government has a history of stipulating national level accreditation of service delivery agencies. These agencies have often used technologies that are not appropriate to local conditions and expenditure patterns that result in inefficiencies. This has been the driving force making community-led procurement gain momentum as a participatory infrastructure to foster greater transparency and accountability in the process of procurement (Baym, 2005).
CLP has been defined as the creation of systems that manage projects or programs' funds from donors and local governments. These funds are then used in according to how the community has determined to acquire contractors, products, and services by using community organizations, which have been locally elected. When developing CLP proposals, forums are created to assist community organizations to communicate with both the private sector and local government officials. In addition, it enables them to participate in the process of procurement and regulate their entire process. These initiatives develop private contractors, local technical capability of dealing with budget related issues, legal rights and legal structures. All these provide support to create an accountable and transparent system of procurement that is easily understood by community members. This is because they are the primary beneficiaries of the project or program. CLP projects are designed in order to create a pragmatic partnership among private sector, local governments, and citizens (Bechky, 2003).
Lave and Wenger community studied naturally and formed craft practitioners and activities based on skills met and shared insights and experience. Lave and Wenger learned in situated areas within a community of practice midwives of Yucatan, native tailors, meat cutters and navy quartermasters as well as insurance claim processors. The concept of Cops has been made use of in many other fields. Some of them include second language acquisition, education, material anthropology and sociolinguistics (Abrahamson, 2006). A good example of a community of practice within an organization is one that developed around the Xerox customer service representatives. This department dealt with repair of machines in the respective field. Xerox made interactions and created the Eureka project which was to allow interactions be shared across a global network of representatives. The database was estimated to save the corporation a cost of $100 million (Baym, 2005).
In any organization, there exists a community of practice. Rather than official status, membership is founded on participation thereby not bound to organizational societies; they have the option of spanning institutional structures and protocol (Alvesson & Karreman, 2007).
Around businesses: Communities of support take it upon themselves as people to address repetitive set of problems together. Communities of practice are formed in the office by claim processors to be in control of the flow of information that needs to be processed. This helps them not to remember everything by themselves.
Across business units: There is often distribution of relevant knowledge in different business units. Those working in cross-functional teams form communities of practice in order to be in touch with their peers in different segments of the company and maintain their profession. When formed, communities of practice cut across various business units. Development of strategic perspectives, which transcend fragmentation of product lines, is also an outcome (Abrahamson, 2006).
Across company boundaries: Crossing organizational boundaries might be useful for communities of practice. For example, in a rapid growing industry for the engineers to keep up with the technological changes they may form a community of practice. Communities of practice are a different area on the organization's structure: one, which ensures people acquire appropriate learning from projects being handled or people whom they work with. They usually differ from other kinds of groups, which are in organizations in the way they depict the enterprise, exist overtime, and set their boundaries (Brown & Duguid, 2001).
A practice group differs from a business or functional unit because it defines itself in the activities it. This means that members among themselves develop their own understanding of what their practice entails. The outcomes of the process are much more than a mere institutional charter. Boundaries of a CoP are flexible compared to those of an organizational unit.
Opportunities for learning are created as newcomers and outsiders learn the practice in the same bracket making it easy for core members to gain new insights with those participants that are not so engaged (Alvesson & Karreman, 2007). Community of practice also differs from a team in the sense that shared learning and interest of its members binds it. Knowledge rather than tasks defines a community practice because participation has value to its members. Its life cycle is determined by value provided to members (Abrahamson, 2006).
It differs with a network in that it is not narrowed down to just a set of regulations but it is about something. It shapes the identities of the members because it is an identity as a community. Participants engage in a collective process of learning thereby producing a shared practice making a community of practice exists (Brown & Duguid, 2001). As people belong to other organizational structures, they also belong to communities of practice, as well. Communities of practice enable people develop knowledge, which helps them take of the other organizational tasks. It makes the organization effective and possible (Bechky, 2003).
Benefits of belonging to a community of practice
Those who take part in a community of the practice group share characteristic of respect and self-esteem. Besides, individuals emerge as holistic and natural whilst creating knowledge in solving problems. Participants in a community of practice benefit through making learning contributions to everyone, they learn about the importance of new ideas and form new relationships. This group might develop a sense of belonging, just like the online community (Alvesson & Karreman, 2007).
Any community of practice is created based on communication: participants acquire expertise by engaging with many people facing similar situations. Researchers have argued that it is through re-communication and communication of ideas that those leaders can refine and deepen their understanding of how to develop leadership skills. In order for this rhetorical expertise to be developed, people can communicate in a capacity of practice with others whom they share a similar situation (Abrahamson, 2006).
Long-term value: It promotes professional development this is achieved through the creation of a platform for expansion of skills and expertise. This platform acts as a link for keeping abreast of a field: Increases market and employment: Strengthens sense of professional identity and Improvement in institutional outcome.
Short-term value: Improvement in experience of work helps in management of challenges, gives access to expertise, and builds on one's confidence to approach problems. Besides, it creates a sense of belonging, and participation is meaningful because it creates good relation between colleagues (Alvesson & Karreman, 2007).
Limitations to belonging to a community of practice in terms of learning and in relation to individual career
The foundation on which trust is built tends to be undermined by the ideology and practices that configure management, and hence how people get committed to an enterprise and those through which they innovate and learn. This means that organizations are not likely to gain from the process of knowledge creation and transfer through social interaction (Brown & Duguid, 2001).
Usually within a community of practice, the meaning is negotiated. However, there are challenges posed to this view. Communities of practice point their focus to practice, which brings about change while the other concept consists of unconsciously, acquired modes of thoughts, resistance to change and different contexts, which are transferable. Another theory states that restricted and elaborate codes develop to explain the discrepancies between the performances of the apprentices from which they are of different social backgrounds. The content is related with a restricted code, with the use of a communication mode, which relies heavily on shared assumption on the context (Abrahamson, 2006).
The code has its limitations in the terms and concepts used and might be have a range of use…