“Whatever the problem, community is the answer” – Margaret J. Wheatley

Over recent years, systems change researchers and practitioners have concluded that building coalitions and working collaboratively is the only way to face the complex issues of climate change, biodiversity loss and social injustice. Yet, most of our business interactions are coined by competitive culture.

Communities of Practice (CoP) promote an open and collaborative approach which enables the participation of a diverse network of organisations, both across supply chains as well as within trades. Our work on the Home-Grown Homes Project and beyond has demonstrated numerous times, just how important trust is among members of the supply chain and how much can be achieved, when we work together on common issues that impact all of us.

Since 2019 we have developed four CoPs to gather professionals of the same trade or supply chain around shared challenges and opportunities. The groups bring together Social Housing Developers, Architects and Designers, Timber Frame Manufacturers and small scale Timber Processors and meet on a regular basis. Depending on the needs of the group, meetings take place on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis.

These communities are an essential part of our work. The dialogue between members informs and validates our various project outputs, whether this be technical guidance, a policy briefing or a proposed training format. It extends the impact of what we do and accelerates shared learning within and across the supply chain. Our CoPs are centred around practical solutions and capacity building and are designed to give members the opportunity to collaborate on prototyping innovative approaches.

The Timber Frame Manufacturing group has been looking at procurement options to enable timber solutions that meet zero carbon requirements and deliver on performance specifications. This has resulted in a problem statement and discussions with the Welsh Government and the delivery of a Masterclass on Value Based Procurement for public procurers and specifiers in social housing (more information on this topic in our next newsletter). The Social Housing Development group is collaborating on approaches to implementing a net zero carbon strategy, while the Architects and Designers group focuses on overcoming barriers to low carbon development as well as supporting clients in creating roadmaps to deliver net zero whole life carbon developments. Our most recent community, the Sawmillers group, is exploring collaboration on timber sourcing from the Welsh Estate, using diseased timber and sharing technical knowledge.

Each community is independent and as such defines its own agenda and schedule of actions based on the needs of its members. Woodknowledge Wales ensures flow of information between CoPs, so that we can progress together. It is not unusual to discover shared interests and challenges between members of different communities of practice. This gives us impetus for further action in looking across boundaries and exploring solutions that fit the needs of multiple communities.

Find out more about our Communities of Practice on our website.