They’re called “communities of practice”, groups of people who share an interest, a passion or a problem to resolve and who, above all, manage to interact in a positive way. The concept aims to give form to numerous such situations in Italy, including businesses, particularly those located in territories characterized by a high concentration of small businesses, artisanal or otherwise. These communities can become a vehicle for relaunching production and the economy, for overcoming the current crisis. Because they produce not only wealth in the traditional sense, but above all knowledge and the evolution of the know-how that has made Italian industry great.
Among those studying these “communities of practice” is Massimiliano Costa, professor of the Economics of Training at Ca’ Foscari in Venice, whose article “Le comunità di pratica per valorizzare la cultura d’impresa e i saperi del territorio” (published in the Quaderni di ricerca sull’artigianato of the CGIA, Mestre) investigates their origins and meaning and provides a detailed, though sometimes difficult analysis of their structural features. The article parts from a series of studies that refer to concrete experiences, including modern-day industrial Italy, in the most prestigious areas of the artisanal and small business sectors (clothing, footwear, electronics).
What comes out is a scheme with certain fixed points, starting with shared language and identity and on to negotiating ability and an understanding of the practices that contribute, all together, to the creation of such a community. Costa then examines these new communities more closely and, in accordance with other scholars, attains what he calls the “determinants” of the “communities of practice”: three necessary components, without which the community cannot be born. They are: reciprocity of relations, a patrimony of shared knowledge, and a common objective, which is exactly what is created in many businesses.
But how are these “communities of practice” useful for companies and businesspeople? According to Costa, only in this way can the latter become “simultaneously providers and recipients of managerial knowledge”. And there’s more. Through these communities it becomes possible, for example, to envisage support services for small businesses, encourage the diffusion of networks, intensify ICT and e-learning, cultivate the creation of training and support networks for newly established businesses. Through them, we can reconfigure a business culture with multiple facets and identities, reflecting the best of Italy itself.
“Le comunità di pratica per valorizzare la cultura d’impresa e i saperi del territorio”
Quaderni di ricerca sull’artigianato, no. 47
CGIA – Mestre