My journey through a landscape of practices

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(Activity 3.29)

“Learning can be viewed as a journey through landscapes of practice” (Wenger, 2010, in Blackmore, 2010, 185).

Ever since I read it, that phrase has been eating away at me – triggering connections all over the place…

It has given me a sense of dissatisfaction with the way I wrote my post about being part of communities of practice.

I have also made connections with an exercise we had to do in the first assignment for the course, plotting our individual trajectories, the journey that led us to start TU812.  At the time that had value in understanding the importance of our history to our approach to the course.  I wrote my post called Legacy as a result of that exercise.

Finally I was reminded of the way I pictured the C-ball in Reflection on juggling as a sack full of concepts, methods and techniques and my responsibility to keep renewing the contents of that sack.

Making the connection between a journey and the sack made me start thinking…as I have taken my journey through landscapes of practice, what have I learned – in other words what concepts, methods and techniques have I gathered to fill my sack.  This has made me think very differently about my connections with communities of practice.

Before I carry on it is worth saying that I have the sort of job that is not particularly bounded by a particular set of practices.  I actually see myself as a broker between communities, and in many ways that fits with my ‘boundary spanner’ role that I spoke about before when talking about what I do when I do what I do.  Wenger (2000) refers to the “uprootedness, homelessness, marginalisation, and organisational invisibility” (in Blackmore, 2010, 128) associated with brokering.

What I have also realised is that my academic studies have put me at the periphery of a number of different communities of practice.  In a very formal sense I have accessed the documented know-what and know-how of that community with only incidental access to individuals from that community and then I have moved on.

So I kind of feel a bit like a poacher of practices!

So here are some examples:

– Development Management – associated with communities involved in international development and ‘regeneration’ within the UK.  Here I poached the ideas of community development and tools such as participatory appraisal and the log frame.  It’s funny – I don’t actually use the tools routinely but I do use the thinking behind them in my practice.

– Management – associated particularly with private sector management.  I poached some authors work more than others from this field – Mintzberg in particular and the idea of emergent and deliberate strategies.

– Social sciences – I club these together a little but psychology; organisational theory; and sociology (institutions and all that).  The concepts associated with social constructivism and postmodernism I use a lot.

– Policy areas – my work has taken me into different policy areas – carers, drugs and now public health.  I have poached different mental models and concepts from each of these fields

Then there are some more incidental contacts that have a big impact on me – the practices of democratic services in servicing meetings; the practices of conference/event managers; the practices of communication and marketing professionals; the practices of project managers; the practices of policy staff in preparing reports for example.  The beauty is I have taken a pick and choose approach – left behind the bits that did not seem right for me!  In addition, my peripherality in this communities and ultimately non-participation means that I do not form my identity around the ‘brand’ associated with them – this suits me fine.

Then there is Systems of course!  My early experience that left me ready to see an opportunity to study it further – and now look where I am!

It is quite significant that this has been a lone journey – it has been unique to me.  But never lonely, because at each point in time there have been other people – the teams I have worked with and learned with as I have gone along.



Wenger, E. (2000) and Wenger, E. (1998) Conceptual Tools for CoPs as Social Learning Systems: Boundaries, Identity, Trajectories and Participation in Blackmore (Ed, 2010) Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice, Open University/Springer, Milton Keynes, London.

Wenger (2010) Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems: the career of a concept in Blackmore (Ed, 2010) Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice, Open University/Springer, Milton Keynes, London.

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