Assessing communities of practice in health policy: a conceptual framework as a first step towards empirical research

Health Res Policy Syst. 2013 Oct 20;11:39. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-11-39.


Communities of Practice (CoPs) are groups of people that interact regularly to deepen their knowledge on a specific topic. Thanks to information and communication technologies, CoPs can involve experts distributed across countries and adopt a 'transnational' membership. This has allowed the strategy to be applied to domains of knowledge such as health policy with a global perspective. CoPs represent a potentially valuable tool for producing and sharing explicit knowledge, as well as tacit knowledge and implementation practices. They may also be effective in creating links among the different 'knowledge holders' contributing to health policy (e.g., researchers, policymakers, technical assistants, practitioners, etc.). CoPs in global health are growing in number and activities. As a result, there is an increasing need to document their progress and evaluate their effectiveness. This paper represents a first step towards such empirical research as it aims to provide a conceptual framework for the analysis and assessment of transnational CoPs in health policy.The framework is developed based on the findings of a literature review as well as on our experience, and reflects the specific features and challenges of transnational CoPs in health policy. It organizes the key elements of CoPs into a logical flow that links available resources and the capacity to mobilize them, with knowledge management activities and the expansion of knowledge, with changes in policy and practice and, ultimately, with an improvement in health outcomes. Additionally, the paper addresses the challenges in the operationalization and empirical application of the framework.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Concept Formation
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Empirical Research*
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Internationality
  • Knowledge
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*