FoundationReview Article

Planned communities of practice can be an effective means to spread and create knowledge. This article explores the degree to which communities of practice can be initiated by funders, and presents the lessons learned and outcomes achieved from the long-term commitment to this concept by the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program.

This article provides a novel contribution to the literature by showing that a funder can initiate, support, and participate in a community of practice comprised of its grantees, which can succeed in sharing and creating knowledge. Factors that organizations should consider when investigating this concept include long-term investment in convenings and facilitation, as well as relinquishing some control over outcomes.

Research shows that the McKnight program’s communities of practice have provided a space for various actors in Africa and the Andes region to develop adaptive capacity related to food system research and action through social learning. As funders increasingly look outside of the traditional logic of projects to explore how they can contribute to enabling long-term conditions and capacity for change and adaptation, well-supported and facilitated communities of practice offer a promising approach.