Communities of Practice initiatives in the public sector

I thought I would post a couple of examples of how communities of practice (CoPs) are becoming increasingly mainstream in developing policy and seeding innovation in the public sector – an area of work I continue to support through my involvement with the Improvement and Develpment Agency.

News from the Cabinet Office on how the Social Exclusion Task Force has set up a Socially Excluded Adults Community of Practice as a spin off from work that the IDeA have been doing to support councils to help people with learning disabilities into employment. The CoP was announced by Kevin Brennan, Minister for Social Exclusion at the Children and Adults conference last week.

And as an example of how to bring fresh and dynamic perspectives into a CoP,  Paul Barber will be holding a live ‘hotseat’ forum  session in the Beacon Scheme CoP on 12 November 2008 11am – 12noon. Paul may be better known for his appearances in TV series such as Only Fools and Horses, and the film The Full Monty. Paul has recently launched the paper back version of his book, ‘Foster Kid‘, and will be in the forum to discuss the book and issues it raises about children and young people in care.

These are just two of the 550+ CoPs that are currently being supported on the IDeA’s CoP platform.

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Social Media for the socially excluded

I had a meting today with an organisation – HeartsnSoul – who want to create a community web site to bring people with learning difficulties together with potential employers. They want to encourage use of personal blogs for their users and have a virtual meeting place (e.g. forum) where their users can ‘meet’ potential employers.

I am looking into the issues and dependencies for providing all this through our existing CoP platform , but I think the interface design requirements may exceed the available budget and there may be implications for the future management and maintenance for what would have to be a separate bespoke development.

I was wondering if anyone had any experience with designing, developing or using similar sites (i.e. with heavy emphasis on accessibility and usability), blending social media applications with a simple and intuitive front end design? Or perhaps anyone with experience in this whole area of bridging the digital divide for socially excluded groups. If so, I should be very grateful if you would contact me.

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