EPIP Boston as a Community of Practice

by Caitlin Fisher, co-chair of EPIP Boston

I’ve spent the past few years learning about network theory and communities of practice in my role as deputy director of the Prime Movers fellowshipprogram at Hunt Alternatives. For those unfamiliar with this concept, a community of practice by definition it is a group of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise — and it promises to radically galvanize knowledge sharing, learning, and change. (Etienne C. Wenger and William M. Snyder). EPIP Boston aims to be a community of practice for practitioners in philanthropy across the Greater Boston area.

There are several principles for cultivating communities of practice and after re-reading Wenger and Snyder’s Harvard Business Review article, “Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge,” I’ve been thinking through how it applies to our work at EPIP Boston and most especially our membership.

Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice

  1. Design for evolution
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
  3. Invite different levels of participation
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces
  5. Focus on value
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement
  7. Create a rhythm for the community


concentric circlesAs we enter our next selection period for new leadership positions, a core principle that is particularly important to EPIP Boston right now is to “invite different levels of participation.” We are currently recruiting for new Steering Committee members, Ambassadors, and EPIPhany group leaders. Now to get a little theoretical for a minute, most theorists think of networks in concentric circles, you’ve got a core group, an active group, and the periphery—all of which are valuable roles and positions within a network to create community. At EPIP Boston, we recognize the fluidity of these roles and would like to invite you to consider joining us within the core group to deepen our leadership abilities. Those who remain in the active and periphery groups, we need you too—both as our echo chamber and to maintain the health of the network! We believe that these boundaries are fluid and folks can go in between them as both interest and abilities shift. The nature of our positions in philanthropy reinforces that fluidity when our jobs and other life happenings become priorities for a period of time. Our deepest desire however is to maintain value within the network and invite in different perspectives and ideas. I hope you’ll consider joining us as a steering committee member, EPIP ambassador, or EPIPhany group leader. And if it’s not the right time, continue giving us feedback and attending events. This community is only as good as the members within it!

To apply for a Steering Committee position, simply fill out this survey.

To apply to be an Ambassador, simply fill out this survey.