Communities of practice: getting to the heart of workplace learning, sharing and innovation

29 May 2014

This literature review is intended to help establish a stronger forum of social housing asset managers across Australia and New Zealand.


For some years I have been involved with a group of Australian and New Zealand social housing asset managers from the State, Territory and New Zealand housing authorities, who share information and research on public housing maintenance. Being a federation of States and Territories, under a common Australian social housing system with New Zealand a close cousin, comparisons are important for benchmarking and identifying best practice. Research carried out in one jurisdiction is usually very pertinent and applicable to others, for example where it might apply to management of health and safety risks such as management of asbestos or lead in paint.

It seemed to me that this group, while usefully sharing information by occasional emails and meeting for two days each year when possible, had much more to offer. I wanted to see how the literature could help to guide the idea of establishing a stronger forum of social housing asset managers across Australia and New Zealand.

On commencing a literature search along the lines of professional networking, knowledge management and epistemic communities, I was quickly drawn to the abundant writings on “communities of practice”. These writings focused on a broader range of groups than just mono-­‐ professional associations or practice networks within a single corporation. They also focused on the importance of interpersonal or social aspects of communities, which in my experience was a critical factor. My challenge then became to search the literature on communities of practice for insights into the dynamics of multi-­‐disciplinary networks, that would inform the establishment of a stronger social housing asset managers’ network.

Also, this is a much broader problem across professional and research communities that are of interest to the Henry Halloran Trust. While demonstrating findings as they relate to social housing asset managers, the intention of the document is to provide a foundation for any group to improve its community of practice.

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