Last year, in the context of a research experience, we used the community of practice for the development of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) in Tanzania (Mansourian et al., 2015). The community of Practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) concept can be used to understand and describe how members of a community, often in a professional or organisational setting, share knowledge and learn in collaboration. SDI is an initiative intended to create an environment that will enable a wide variety of users to access, retrieve, and disseminate spatial data in an easy and secure way. It is achieved through the development and agreement on policies and standards that should be respected and followed for the production, storage and sharing of spatial data, including maps.
Being SDI a new concept in Tanzania, we had to use a technique in which in the context of a learning process, stakeholders understand the concept of SDI as well as the requirements in Tanzania for the development of SDI. This learning was very essential to be able to develop and agree on policies and standards. The community of practice was the technique that we used. However, we did not use digital environment and tools, mainly because we were not aware of them. Attending in physical meetings and making long discussions were the approach that we used. Besides the challenges of this approach that we are all aware of, a major issue was gluing the tasks and the thought of different stakeholders, had been conducted individually, before the meetings.
From the experience of this topic, I am fully convinced that the digital tools and environments for collaborative learning are very useful not only for pure learning purposes, but also the research and collaborative activities in which learning is also an important part.
Lave, J.; Wenger, E. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1991.
Mansourian, A., Lubida, A., Pilesjo, P., Abdolmajidi, E., Lassi, M. (2015). SDI planning using the system dynamics technique within a community of practice: lessons learnt from Tanzania, Geo-spatial Information Science, 18(2-3),97-110.