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Once the Capacity Development Initiative is Over: Using Communities of Practice Theory to Transform Individual into Social Learning

Bailey, Arwen
The journal of agricultural education and extension 2014 v.20 no.4 pp. 429-448
Africans, agricultural research, case studies, interviews, learning, professional development, qualitative analysis, questionnaires, research and development, social change, women
A bstract Purpose: Capacity development for agricultural research and development is missing an opportunity. Initiatives tend to focus on developing capacity of individuals and even when the ultimate aim is social change leave the transformation of individual into social learning largely to chance. I use the lens of social learning systems, particularly concepts from Community of Practice theory, to explore how that theory can provide practical insights into transforming individual into social learning and the design considerations that would support this. Design/methodology/approach: Using as a case study a professional development programme, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), I conducted a use-oriented systemic inquiry among 26 AWARD participants, with myself as informed investigator within the system of inquiry. Data from interviews and questionnaires were subjected to qualitative analysis using analytic induction with sensitizing concepts from Community of Practice theory. Practical implications: I identify strengths and challenges, and provide five design considerations that might enable the individuals participating in a capacity development programme to continue to engage after the programme ends and self-organize for concerted action. Originality/value: The originality of this research article is the use of the three central Community of Practice concepts of domain, community and practice as analytical tools for understanding individual and social learning among the alumni of a professional capacity development programme. This has value for designers of capacity development initiatives.