FACE Peace Design Brief: Communities of Practice On/Offline

FACE Peace Design Brief: Communities of Practice On/Offline

John Porten, Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice

Abstract or Description

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the peacebuilding community. In-person gatherings designed to facilitate trust, open communication, and mutual understanding suddenly shifted to online spaces. The hasty change to virtual gathering generated substantial frustration and confusion but prompted meaningful questions about inclusion, justice and efficacy in our old ways of working.

The FACE Peace Initiative at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice intends to help peacebuilders answer questions about in-person and online collaboration with intention and care. This design brief combines desk research on best practices from other fields with observation of peacebuilding organizations to identify key debates and concerns and provide insight into how to navigate trade-offs between in-person and distanced peacebuilding activities and events.

Peacebuilding organizations often attempt to gather members of the field into “communities of practice” (“CoPs”), which intend to increase skills and knowledge among members through long-term information-sharing and reciprocal mentorship. Facilitators of practice communities in peacebuilding and other fields frequently complain that the community falls moribund over time.

This FACE Peace design brief considers the question of practice community success from the perspective of hybrid work and the tensions peacebuilders have come to feel between digital and in-person interactions in a truly global field.

What does in-person interaction between practice community members accomplish? When are these benefits essential for success? When are they simply “nice to have”? What are the best ways to recreate the benefits of in-person meetings at a distance? Are there benefits only distanced work can provide?