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Knowledge by Association: Communities of Practice in Public Management

Author: AMY E. SMITH
Published in PAQ, Vol. 40 No. 3

Managers in any organization face myriad challenges. One way to figure out how to deal with these challenges is to learn what peers do in similar situations ? to seek and share knowledge. Knowledge sharing has an established tradition in research. Empirical studies highlight communities of practice as one venue for knowledge sharing, although few studies examine how knowledge is shared within communities that span multiple jurisdictions particularly in public sector settings. This study reveals five structures, behaviors, and processes embedded in communities of practice that enable knowledge sharing across public sector jurisdictions: structured and unstructured exchange, anecdotes and storytelling, modeling by experienced members, multiple modes of communication, and confidentiality. Together, these practices establish a gateway to informal communication, build community through communication within and across groups, provide access to ?know how? information from a diverse set of perspectives, and encourage peer comparisons.

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