Anne Curson, Queensland Council of Social Service
Community of practice

It’s uncomfortable, complex, frustrating and is the origin of many of our struggles. Change - it is something that we all experience daily but don’t necessarily embrace. In the community services sector, change is something that we are accustomed to in our work places. It is a process that can often be thrust upon us with a moment’s notice and we have become masters at responding to it.

What would happen if we were to choose the change? If we embraced disruption? Would we respond differently? Would we thrive? Would we be better at supporting our communities and each other?

Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS), Fosters Community Finance and National Disability Services (NDS) came together late in 2013, to discuss how we, as leaders, could collaborate, be proactive and embrace the disruption together.

We crafted a question to inspire and gather together a room full of leaders, to share, challenge, discuss and encourage.

What can we do to embrace disruption and respond differently to support our communities to thrive?
The first Community Services Community of Practice, gathered in Brisbane during February and March 2014. Under the guidance of the 'Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter’ processes and with a committed core team, the conversation began.

The room filled with a variety of service managers, board members, CEO’s and members from the private sector. We gathered in circle which brought about a sense of common ground. This laid a foundation of respect for one another and the experience, stories and emotions we all had to bring to the day.

First, we reflected on ourselves, and our own ability to embrace distribution. Looking at which points in our work and practice had we responded with courage?

Trust is built through relationships. Coming together to share stories and learn from one another is how we lay a foundation.

The day followed a process of posing questions, sharing, listening and learning from the professionals in the room. There was a common theme that arose from the group. We all endorsed the need for proactive change, to work together and embrace distribution, not only for us but the communities we represent.

The feedback from the two days proved it was a success, with many people appreciating the diversity yet similarity of those in the room. People felt empowered and held a sense of renewed hope. There was an overarching positive tone that was filled with energy and willingness to build relationships, connect and communicate, moving into the unknown future together.

In Brisbane, we now have the start of a Community of Practice. Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction. Communities develop their practice through a variety of activities such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Seeking experience 
  • Reusing assets 
  • Coordination and synergy 
  • Discussing developments 
  • Documentation projects 
  • Mapping knowledge and identifying gaps 

 We have had such an overwhelming response to the Community of Practice in Brisbane, QCOSS and NDS will be hosting a series of events in regional centers during May and June 2014. You can visit the QCOSS website to find our more about these events.

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