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Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice bring together staff with similar roles, experiences and needs to work together, share knowledge, and improve their practice area.

What are Communities of Practice?

Communities of Practice (CoPs) are communities for people at UCL who work in similar practice areas or perform similar functions. CoPs help staff build networks, share knowledge and resources, and break down silos. 

CoPs positively impact practice areas by bringing people together from across the university, to collaborate and find solutions that work for everyone. They also help improve communication between different areas and identify best practice models.

By building networks and collaborating with others, CoP members can also gain experiences and stretch skills that contribute toward career progression. 

Communities of Practice formed the first ever Transforming Our Professional Services (TOPS) project, launched in Autumn 2017. As of September 2021, there are 19 CoPs at UCL, with a membership of over 3,500 staff. 

Due to their success, they are now embedded as business as usual in the Employee Experience team, Organisational Development, with a dedicated Communities of Practice Manager

Go to the Communities of Practice SharePoint Hub

How do Communities of Practice work at UCL?

The CoP’s members (often split into core and wider members) drive its main activities. As experts in the practice area, they can generate project ideas and activities and feed back on the CoP’s activities. Each CoP is led by two or three leads who oversee projects, influence the CoP’s direction and make sure it reaches its goals. The leads regularly meet with the CoP’s sponsor – a senior manager at UCL whose role is to give support to and advocate for the CoP and make sure it is aligned with UCL’s strategies.

Typical CoP activities can include:

  • Running focused projects to improve the practice area, for example around a new way of working, best practice, or introducing a new tool
  • Upskilling members through regular Lunch & Learn events
  • Creating an online community for members to connect and share knowledge 
  • Regular networking events and meet ups 

CoPs are all different in how they grow and develop; members shape the direction of their CoP and the projects they choose to work on.

Current Communities of Practice at UCL
  • Communications and Marketing: Student Recruitment, Internal Communications, Digital Communications, Events Management
  • Human Resources: HR Generalists, Recruitment
  • Planning: Data and Insight, Project and Programme Management
  • Student and Registry Services: Widening Participation, Student Health and Wellbeing, Programme Administration (Teaching)
  • Research Support (Technical staff): Research IT, Engineering Technical Staff
  • Research Support: Research Support (merged two previous CoPs: Pre-Award Management, Post-Award Management)
  • Estates: Facilities Management
  • Finance: Financial Management, Procurement and Purchasing
  • Information Services: IT Systems Management & Service Delivery
  • Innovation & Enterprise: Partnership Development

Impact at UCL

CoPs have had a positive impact at UCL on many levels. Highlights of a 2019 survey of CoP members include:

  • 81% of members felt the CoP helped you to generate new ideas, be more creative and solve problems.
  • 74% said that being a member of a CoP helped them to share resources, information and experiences across UCL.
  • 71% felt that CoPs helped to improve communication between different areas (e.g. central divisions and local departments).

UCL has also achieved national recognition for CoPs. In 2019, we were awarded the award for best organisational development and culture change initiative at the 2019 UHR (Universities Human Resources) Awards for Excellence in HR.

CoP member testimonials 

Being part of the CoP has improved my confidence, because I have met other people with similar interests and priorities to my own, which has validated what I am trying to do in my own role and provided a place to solve problems I might not overcome on my own.
I have been able to build my professional HR network within UCL and gain a better understanding of the HR agenda. This has enabled me to plan and drive local activities in the same direction.
The CoPs support this shared professional development and enhanced wellbeing which comes with feeling connected and part of something bigger.