ENVi: A special interest group for school and community engagement professionals working in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums in Victoria, Australia.


Biennial General Meeting, 19 April 2012 – President’s Report

Museums Australia Education Network Victoria (envi)

Biennial General Meeting, 19 April 2012 – President’s Report



  • Peter Hoban (Treasurer)
  • Paula Lindley (Secretary)
  • Simon Dalton (until February 2012)
  • Priscilla Gaff
  • Christine Healey (from December 2011)
  • Ian Watts
  • Patrick Watt
  • Shelley Waldon (until October 2011)


I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Committee, both collectively and individually for their efforts over the past two years. We are an active Committee (within the constraints of our ‘day jobs’) and everyone has contributed to the development and management of the programs we have offered. The Committee meets bi-monthly, so there have been 14 or so meetings over that tme.

The only membership changes have been Shelley Waldon and Simon Dalton each leaving the Committee for personal reasons, and Christine Healey joining in December 2011.

The Committee is always keen to co-opt new members, partially because new ideas and fresh enthusiasm are always good, but also because we want to maintain a broad reach into the museum education sector in Victoria.  And, of course, because many of the current Committee members have served for several terms, we need to introduce new members to provide for succession planning.


envi’s purpose is to be a Community of Practice, specifically targeted at museum educators in Victoria.

I’ve attached an excerpt of the Wikipedia article on Communities of Practice by way of background. But one definition is that:

  • A Community of Practice is a group of people who are active practitioners.
  • Community of Practice participation is not appropriate for non-practitioners.
  • The purpose of a Community of Practice is to provide a way for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues, and provide support for each other.
  • Membership is dependent on expertise – one should have at least some recent experience performing in the role or subject area of the Community of Practice.

So, it is a constant challenge to consider the relevance of what we do and the programs we offer, especially given the range of options that exist for people to connect professionally with one another these days, especially online.

Any ideas for programs, formats, presenters and so on, therefore, are always most welcome.


There have been a number of staples such as Peep Shows and Travellers’ Tales, but the predominant theme has been that of sharing ideas and narratives about good, best or simply interesting practice.

Here is a brief summary of the program since the last BGM:

March Biennial General Meeting and Peep Show
May National Sports Museum
September/October Museums Australia Conference – envi supported Stephen Heppell as a speaker
October MEAA/MA Education Network 1975-2010 lunch (at MA Conference)
November Travellers’ Tales
February Peep Show
May Polly Woodside (cancelled)
July NGV – childrens’ space
November Travellers’ Tales
March Old Treasury
April Biennial General Meeting and Love and Devotion (State Library of Victoria)

Andrew Hiskens

President, envi

18 April, 2012


Community of practice

(excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_practice, accessed 5pm, 18 April, 2012)

A community of practice (CoP) is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, a group of people who share a craft and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991). CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment.

This type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling. Wenger coined the phrase in his 1998 book, Communities of Practice: learning, meaning and identity.

The structural characteristics of a community of practice are again redefined to a domain of knowledge, a notion of community and a practice (Wenger et. al & 2004 pp 27 – 29).


A domain of knowledge creates common ground, inspires members to participate, guides their learning and gives meaning to their actions.


The notion of a community creates the social fabric for that learning. A strong community fosters interactions and encourages a willingness to share ideas.


While the domain provides the general area of interest for the community, the practice is the specific focus around which the community develops, shares and maintains its core of knowledge.

Communities of Practice versus Communities of Interest

In addition to the distinction between CoP and other types of organizational groupings found in the workplace, in some cases it is useful to differentiate CoP from Communities of Interest (CoI).

Community of Interest

A group of people interested in sharing information and discussing a particular topic that interests them.

Members are not necessarily experts or practitioners of the topic around which the CoI has formed.

The purpose of the CoI is to provide a place where people who share a common interest can go and exchange information, ask questions, and express their opinions about the topic.

Membership in a CoI is not dependent upon expertise – one only needs to be interested in the subject.

Community of Practice

A CoP, in contrast, is a group of people who are active practitioners.

CoP participation is not appropriate for non-practitioners.

The purpose of a CoP, as discussed above, is to provide a way for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues, and provide support for each other.

Membership is dependent on expertise – one should have at least some recent experience performing in the role or subject area of the CoP.

Actions to cultivate a successful community of practice

What makes a community of practice succeed depends on the purpose and objective of the community as well as the interests and resources of the members of that community. Wenger identified seven actions that could be taken in order to cultivate communities of practice:

  1. Design the community to evolve naturally – Because the nature of a Community of Practice is dynamic, in that the interests, goals, and members are subject to change, CoP forums should be designed to support shifts in focus.
  2. Create opportunities for open dialog within and with outside perspectives – While the members and their knowledge are the CoP’s most valuable resource, it is also beneficial to look outside of the CoP to understand the different possibilities for achieving their learning goals.
  3. Welcome and allow different levels of participation – Wenger identifies 3 main levels of participation. 1) The core group who participate intensely in the community through discussions and projects. This group typically takes on leadership roles in guiding the group 2) The active group who attend and participate regularly, but not to the level of the leaders. 3) The peripheral group who, while they are passive participants in the community, still learn from their level of involvement. Wenger notes the third group typically represents the majority of the community.
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces – While CoP’s typically operate in public spaces where all members share, discuss and explore ideas, they should also offer private exchanges. Different members of the CoP could coordinate relationships among members and resources in an individualized approach based on specific needs.
  5. Focus on the value of the community – CoP’s should create opportunities for participants to explicitly discuss the value and productivity of their participation in the group.
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement – CoP’s should offer the expected learning opportunities as part of their structure, and opportunities for members to shape their learning experience together by brainstorming and examining the conventional and radical wisdom related to their topic.
  7. Find and nurture a regular rhythm for the community – CoP’s should coordinate a thriving cycle of activities and events that allow for the members to regularly meet, reflect, and evolve. The rhythm, or pace, should maintain an anticipated level of engagement to sustain the vibrancy of the community, yet not be so fast-paced that it becomes unwieldy and overwhelming in its intensity. (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder 2002)

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