Defining a COP’s Work and Structure

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After COP members complete activities that help them discover common needs, expertise in the group, and potential benefits from COP participation, they need to develop goals for their work and methods for accomplishing their objectives. Now is the time to facilitate discussions that help the group focus its efforts and define its structure. You can help COPs answer questions such as: What are our priority needs? In what order should we tackle them? What are our goals? How will we know when we’ve achieved them? How will we structure our meetings? What roles do we need? These conversations will also lead to a deeper exploration of the value of maintaining this learning community.

These questions can help a COP prioritize needs and define goals.

Make sure that COP members have the time and space to explore and prioritize their needs and goals. You can use the questions below to generate a healthy discussion. 

  • Can the COP take action that will have a greater impact than any individual organization acting alone, to address a specific need?
  • What existing assets or resources within the community can be leveraged to help address the need?
  • What outcome, produced by the COP, would satisfactorily address the need?
  • What type of work is most useful to the COP? Possible options include:
    1. Innovating
    2. Distilling best practices
    3. Collective problem solving
    4. Group learning

TTA providers can support a new COP by setting up its basic infrastructure.

As a TTA provider, you can help the COP get off to a strong start by offering some basic infrastructure. For instance, you might set up a free conference call number, recommend the frequency of calls (such as suggesting that the group meet monthly) and provide a set of suggested dates. You could also set up a regular meeting of COP leaders facilitated by you, the TTA provider. This type of regular support can serve to reenergize COPs. Another way to provide infrastructure is to set up a community website to reduce COP start-up obstacles. You might rely on online services like Google Groups, Wiggio, Ning, or Jive. Another option is for you to work with the COP leaders to help them establish their own COP website.

Click to open interactivity Check your understanding of approaches that can help COPs define their work and structure.

Check your understanding of approaches that can help COPs define their work and structure.

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Ensure that every COP develops an action plan, structure, and roles.

To define a focus and stay on course, a COP needs to develop an action plan, determine a meeting structure, and define group roles. You can provide a template for the COP to fill out. For greatest impact, you may want to break the template into a series of smaller components to be completed over the course of a conference or over a series of conference calls. A robust action/structure plan would answer the following questions:

      1. What potential do you see in your team?
      2. What are three of your team’s goals?
      3. How will you know when these goals have been accomplished?
      4. What general format and structure have you determined for your team? Possible options might include:
        • Regular informal check-ins during which members with something to discuss can bring the topic up during a group call
        • Peer-led trainings in which each member trains on a topic or leads a discussion of interest to all members. You may want to determine topics in advance and include them within the action plan
        • Presentations on existing practices, followed by discussions on how to improve them
        • Identification of problems for the group to discuss and solve together
      5. How frequently will meetings occur? How long will they be? What format will we use for meetings (Conference call, virtual meeting, in-person meeting)?
      6. What is your meeting schedule with times and dates?
      7. How will each meeting be structured?
      8. What is each individual member’s commitment to the COP?
      9. What roles are needed in the COP and who will fill them?
      10. How will the COP share and store resources?
Click to open interactivity Here are some suggested COP member roles.

Here are some suggested COP member roles.

Please click on the images to a read description of each role.

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