Developing inter-disciplinary and inter-agency networks: reflections on a "community of practice" approach
Purpose ‐ People with a dual diagnosis or other multiple and complex needs often require support from a range of services and agencies. Social policy has focused on achieving an integrated response from practitioners; however, service responses to this group frequently remain fragmented. Practitioners supporting these clients are likely to need knowledge drawn from multiple disciplines and awareness of complex and changing services. Research suggests the value of professional networks for knowledge transfer. The purpose of this paper is to describe one's approach to supporting integration and facilitating knowledge exchange through the development of "communities of practice". Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper describes a "communities of practice" model, as implemented by researchers from King's College London and Revolving Doors Agency through their Communities of Practice Development Programme. It outlines potential benefits of the model ‐ identified through focus groups and survey responses of members, facilitator interviews and the authors' observations as community of practice members. Finally, it discusses challenges and limitations of this approach. Findings ‐ Communities of practice are able to provide a forum for peer support and supervision to mediate feelings of role or service isolation and to sustain practitioner motivation. They can also facilitate inter-disciplinary and inter-agency knowledge transfer. However, the limited resources available to these local networks act as a barrier to developing their capacity to improve responses to people with multiple and complex needs. Originality/value ‐ The paper uses a case study approach to outline the potential for a "communities of practice" approach to be used to improve responses to people with multiple and complex needs.
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