Blog » Building a Community through CoP Sprints

Building a Community through CoP Sprints

Created Mar 22 2021, 8:43 PM by Communities Reinvented
  • Start a CoP


  • Building community through a series of Sprints is an iterative approach whereby you test a concept, learn from the results of that experiment, and try again 
  • When it comes to building community, you don’t know what’s going to work until you try
  • To run a CoP sprint, decide on and run an experiment (typically around bringing people together on the topic of interest), reflect and learn from it, make adjustments and iterate


What is a CoP Sprint?

Community building is part science, part art. It requires planning, method, intuition, and agility. As a Community evolves, it is important to be aware that the exact same approach may not work in different contexts. For this reason, applying the same static blueprint or checklist to designing and running a Community does not guarantee satisfactory results over time. A more effective approach to building an adaptive Community is to implement CoP Sprints: an iterative approach to building Community whereby you quickly try different ways of bringing people together, learn from what works and what doesn’t, and then tweak your approach.


Why use CoP Sprints when building a Community of Practice?

A key to success is to find the right balance between thinking/strategizing and doing. You don’t want to spend several months planning and designing a whole infrastructure only to realize that it is not what the Community members are looking for. You also don’t want to set up an online platform, call it a Community and then find out that its intended users don’t use it. 

Building community iteratively, or “in sprints”, allows you to keep an open mind, focus on building relationships and learn as you go. All the while you are building a real Community, not a plan or a set of slides. This increases your chances of success. 

How do you run a CoP Sprint?

First, start developing your Community Charter, and use it continuously throughout your journey to collect information and insights about your community and inform your strategy. 

Second, start by starting: build your Community in the present. Form a Core Team, start engaging prospective members to understand Member Needs. The main idea behind the process of iteration is that you try something out, reflect and learn from it, and try again. These quick experiments and iterations are going to provide ongoing validation for your vision and help you refine your long-term strategy all the while building relationships among your members. 

Steps in a CoP Sprint 

Below is a simple outline of a standard CoP Sprint. Note that these steps align to the Community of Practice Framework. 

  1. Initiate: identify a purpose that is important to you, your team, your organization (see Shared Value for more information on this topic)

  2. Discover

    1. Talk to members to understand their perspective and gain more insight on your purpose or the problem your community is trying to solve

    2.  Understand and consolidate Member Needs: make sense of what you are learning from the conversations with your members and use it to validate and / or refine your initial purpose

  3. Prototype

    1. Design an activity (or a set of activities) that addresses the member needs you identified. As you are designing the activity, you will also identify metrics or what you want to learn from that activity. 

    2. Run the activity: find beta testers (early adopters / prospective community members) to participate in the activity.

  4. Learn: after the activity is over, debrief and reflect as a team, and use the learning and insights you generate for the next CoP Sprint in this iterative cycle.

You can run through these steps as many times as you need to. Naturally, the process will look and feel a little different each time you go through an iteration. Even after a Community is formally launched, there is value in maintaining an iterative approach to planning and designing the CoP activities. 

This article is part of the WBG Communities of Practice Toolkit licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The toolkit features practical resources to help you develop impactful Communities of Practice. 📖 Learn more about the Toolkit.  ▶ Access the Toolkit