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Forming the Core Group of a Community of Practice

Created Mar 30 2021, 3:57 PM by Communities Reinvented
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  • The Core Group consists of members who are the most interested in (and often most passionate about) the Community.
  • Having a Core Group is important for joint development, to include members’ perspectives and instill a sense of ownership, to act as role models, enable more inclusive representation and diversification, and provide succession planning.
  • When forming a Core Group, bear in mind that it is an actual team that needs to meet regularly, have governance with roles and responsibilities and a clear relationship to the Core Team.


What is a Core Group?

The Core Group is made up of members who are the most interested in (and often most passionate about) the Community you are trying to build and who are committed to its creation and success.

The Core Group is the smallest membership group but is at the very heart of the Community.

  • The Core Team consists of the organizers of the Community.  It consists of the Community Leader and one or two other prime decision makers who are accountable for the success of the Community..
  • The Core Group consists of the members of the Community, the most interested in and most passionate about the Community, but members nonetheless.
  • In addition to the Core Team and Core Group, every Community has active members, those who contribute content or attend events on a regular or periodic basis. 
  • It also has peripheral members who generally only consume the Community’s content but do not contribute to it. Nevertheless, the periphery is still important: every Community needs consumers, and the members of this population are all potential active members and sometimes eventual members of the Core Group.

Why is the Core Group important?

Having a Core Group is important for several reasons:

  • Joint development - A Community can be created by one person or even with the few key members of the Core Team,a wider set of constituents is needed to create and grow the Community. Essentially, the Core Group does the heavy lifting of the Core Team. Creating Community is a Community activity!
  • Members’ perspective - While an audience analysis gives you initial insights on members’ needs, by having a Core Group co-create the Community includes members’ perspective directly into the design of the Community, thus making it even more member-centric.
  • Sense of ownership – By participating in the design process, Core Group members develop a sense of ownership of the Community. In turn, this means that they’ll be more committed to its success, and will be available to help you as it develops. 
  • Role models - Core Group members will be role models as they will practice those Community behaviors that you expect from members. They will “model what you want to see mirrored.” 
  • Inclusive representation and diversification - A Core Group that is inclusive, representative and diversified will ensure that all members feel that they are welcome, have a voice in the Community, and that they are in the right place, and that they belong. 
  • Succession planning - Membership of the Community will change over time, including its leadership. The Core Group is an important vehicle for training key members to take over the leadership of the Community. The Core Group is also important for training aspiring Core Group members who want to take on more responsibilities in the Community
  • Can act as a Core Team - Many grassroots communities are created organically bottom-up without a formal Core Team. In such cases, the Core Group is the decision-making set of members that fulfills both roles and is accountable for the success of the Community.

How do you form the Core Group for your Community of Practice?

The Core Group has several functions and characteristics. Bear these factors in mind about the Core Group when recruiting members so that they know what they are volunteering for and what their commitment will be:

  • The Core Group is an actual team that needs to meet, keep to a schedule and all the other minutiae associated with being on a team.
  • It should meet regularly.
  • It has to keep records, so there needs to be a recording role (which can be rotated), and a central location for the storage and retrieval of those records.
  • It needs a form of governance with roles and responsibilities to guide its operations.
  • It needs to define its relationship to the Core Team with regards to areas such as setting strategy.
  • It needs to decide what it will produce and what it will try to get the members to produce, for example, each Core Group member commits to producing one blog every 3 months, and the Core Group as a whole commits to writing an annual report.

There are a number of principles to follow when recruiting your Community's Core Group:

Representativeness - The members of the Core Group should be representative of the broader audience of potential members in terms of regions, areas of expertise, organizations, and so on.

Numbers - You need to identify a number of people that is large enough to be representative but small enough to so that they develop strong relationships with each other, reinforcing their Sense of Community and commitment to that Community.

A good number would be between 8 and 15 people, depending on the size of the Community, but this is not set in stone. If you have only 30 to 50 potential Community members, a Core Group of 4 to 5 might be sufficient. On the other hand, you do not want more than 15 people because then it will be harder for Core Group members to quickly develop close relationships with each other.

Composition - Choose those people who are the most enthusiastic about the Community idea.  It is tempting  to nominate the top experts or representatives of different organizational structures however, those who are appointed might be experts in their domain, but might not necessarily care much about the Community and not be committed to it. 

Recruitment - Likely candidates for the Core Group might emerge because of existing relationships and past conversations. Others can be identified from the Member Needs analysis, for example, those who have been the most enthusiastic when answering the interview questions.

NOTE: While Core Group members do not necessarily need to be the top experts within the domain, it is very important that they be recognized as peers by their colleagues and other practitioners. If they have no or low credibility, it is unlikely that they will be able to function as role models and it is unlikely that other members will wish to model their behavior on theirs.

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