A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a concern, a set of challenges, or a passion about a topic. They deepen their knowledge and expertise by regularly interacting to create, share, and use knowledge. A CoP connects people to solutions, celebrates and spreads good practices, and spurs innovation. Those who are new to a field can learn from their more experienced peers and bring fresh ideas and perspectives.

There are three types of communities of practice.

These are not discrete categories. A community of practice may overlap two or even all three of these, or may shift between types.

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Link people for information exchange and learning

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Help people share ideas, goals, and strategies

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Enable members to work together for change

How is a community of practice different from a learning collaborative?

Communities of Practice…

  • Often continue indefinitely
  • Have a flexible, fluid membership
  • Address challenges as they arise
  • Build knowledge through sharing and collective problem-solving

Learning Collaboratives…

  • Are time-limited (typically 6-15 months)
  • Have a defined group of participants
  • Have specific, measurable goals
  • Build knowledge through teaching, practice, and sharing

Both are “all teach, all learn” approaches to practice-based learning! 

Alliance & Partner Communities of Practice

PS Suite EMR Users Community of Practice

Most Alliance member organizations use a common Electronic Medical Records (EMR) System – TELUS PS Suite. This community of practice, supported by Alliance staff, brings together PS Suite users from across our membership at multiple levels: data management coordinators (DMCs), managers, and health care providers.

Data Management Coordinators Regional User Groups

DMCs across Ontario have formed regional user groups (RUGS) to provide mutual support, engage in collaborative solution-finding, and share their learnings and insights. The RUGS are primary led and managed by users.

Social Prescribing Communities of Practice

Social prescribing is a practice dedicated to building up communities and fostering connections between like-minded people. In much the same way, the people who implement social prescribing initiatives, advocate for the social prescribing movement, or just want to deepen their understanding of social prescribing need a space to convene and learn from each other. With this need in mind, the Alliance developed two communities of practice to bring people together on national and provincial levels.

Both launched in fall 2021, the Canadian Social Prescribing CoP and the Ontario Social Prescribing CoP are facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations, sharing resources and knowledge, and building social connections across sectors to raise awareness about social prescribing. To learn more about social prescribing and how to join our CoPs, see our registration page here or email communications@allianceon.org.

Finance Community of Practice

This community of practice was launched in February 2023 to make it easier for Finance & Data Management staff in our member organizations to connect with peers for collaboration, mentoring, and support. Depending on the needs and interests of the group, CoP activities may include presentations or workshops, sharing sessions, and focused conversations around shared challenges and topics of interest. Interested in participating, leading, or learning more? Email LHS@AllianceON.org to join.

National Safer Supply Community of Practice

In the late 2010s, primary healthcare providers in Canada began prescribing opioids to people who live with opioid use disorder, as part of their response to the escalating crisis of opioid poisonings due to toxic street supply. Safer supply programs have since grown and spread across the country and are increasingly recognized as an important component of the crisis response.

In the fall of 2020, a community of practice for safer supply was formed in Ontario. In recognition of the need to scale up safer supply programs, Health Canada awarded $1 million to London InterCommunity Health Centre to scale up this community of practice to the national level, in partnership with the Alliance for Healthy Communities and the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs. The new, National Safer Supply Community of Practice (NSS-CoP) was launched in 2021. It facilitates member meetings (drop-in sessions, working groups), a members’ discussion forum, public ‘hot topic’ and  'research spotlight' meetings and events. The CoP’s website is a knowledge and resource hub for safer supply practice and advocacy.

To learn more about the NSS-CoP and how to join, email SaferSupplyON@gmail.com.

ACEs & Community Resiliency Community of Practice

ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, are potentially traumatic experiences that can increase the risk of poor mental and physical health outcomes throughout the life course. Community resilience is a protective factor that can reduce the frequency and mpact of ACEs. In June 2021, the Alliance launched a CoP for people in our sector who wanted to enhance capacity for ACES-informed care and resilience-building in their practices, organizations, and communities. In March 2023, the CoP accepted an invitation to merge with a similar one managed by Public Health Ontario (PHO). If you work for an Alliance member organization and are interested in joining it, please email LHS@AllianceON.org.


Community Vaccination Community of Practice

With the goal of working towards more equitable post-pandemic health outcomes, the Alliance for Healthier Communities received funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)’s Immunization Partnership Fund (IPF) to implement the Community Vaccination Promotion – Ontario (CVP-ON) project. This project was part of a cross-Canada partnership with other national and provincial associations to promote vaccine trust, confidence, and uptake. It was funded from April 2021 through March 2023. Although formal support for this Community of Practice has ended, relevant updates to policy and practice guidelines continue to be shared in this Google group