The Communities of Practice consist of externally facing unclassified sites that serve the Defense Acquisition Workforce by publicly hosting accessible communities of practice (CoPs) to assist the Workforce on-the-job (workflow learning). The CoPs provide quick access to information and resources and the opportunity to interact, ask questions, and share experiences with workforce members across the Department of Defense (DoD). This supports job performance, avoids duplication of effort, enables faster and better-informed decisions, and advances the connection of people and ideas.
Under the auspices of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD(AT&L)), the Defense Acquisition University operates and maintains the communities. The communities are the collaborative arm of DAU's knowledge management site. Their primary purpose is to extend DAU's reach by providing a global learning environment that supports a mission ready defense acquisition workforce, and the goal is to connect people to acquisition know-how across both DoD and industry.
Since their launch in October 2001, communities have expanded significantly to a large practice center covering Defense Acquisition Workforce career fields and crosscutting critical business practices. Although the initial target audience is the more than 153,000 members of the defense acquisition workforce, the broadest audience is far larger--potentially more than a million--to encompass all levels within the military services, defense agencies, industry, and Federal Government. Additionally, these communities serve a diverse user base consisting of a wide range of age groups with a variety of experience levels and backgrounds. Because communities have no traditional hierarchical structure constraints, members have broad access to peers, expert help, best practices, valuable lessons, and innovative ideas that cross organizational boundaries.
Benefits of Membership
Much of the information in the communities is publicly available and accessible without the need to log in. However, a CoP member has additional capabilities that guests do not have, including the following:
- Creating their own professional network
- Requesting to join a specific community
- Contributing content
- Sharing ideas
- Asking and answering questions
- Subscribing for updates
- Rating content
- Viewing ratings of other members
- Viewing content from other members
- Commenting on content
- Viewing other members' comments
Typical Attributes of a Community of Practice
- Is open to the public
- Focuses on providing a repository for a broad range of relevant and related content
- Provides access to significant processes or critical business issues specific to a community
- Facilitates connections and collaboration among its members
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Levels of Participation
Communities have helped DAU extend its reach to the workforce on a real time basis by providing access to resources and support beyond the classroom and fully engaging our industry and federal partners. However, levels of participation vary greatly among our users and fall under three primary categories:
- Users who do not join or log in but are casual surfers or consumers (guests).
Users who join for research but rarely interact or contribute:
- Discover a community through search results
- Represent a large percentage of the page views
- Visit the site for the first time
- Receive value, often through casual browsing
Users who join, interact and contribute
- Majority of the membership
- Often junior level users seeking help or answers to questions
- CoP members
- Small percentage of the membership
- Recruited and engaged to be part of the core community group
- Primarily subject matter experts (SMEs) with experience and knowledge to share
Many users are initially drawn to the site through search results, and the community site typically shows in the top 10 results in an acquisition-related search. Participation in the communities is free and voluntary, and the content is predominantly open to the public so users can browse the extensive knowledge base without login credentials.
The majority of users are consumers of the information within the communities. This high percentage of page views registered by guests as well as user feedback validates this and indicates a need for access to relevant and timely sources of information. Users are primarily interested in accessing information that will allow them to perform their job and receive value from their interaction through increased productivity in finding what they need quickly, gaining great awareness, and in some cases, reducing rework.