Communities of Practice

What are Communities of Practice?

Communities of practice (CoPs) are groups of like-minded, interacting people who keep know-how in sectoral and thematic domains alive by continuously sharing what they know, building on that, and adapting knowledge to specific applications. They perform any or all of the following functions:


Organizing and managing information that is worth paying attention to.


Taking new, little-known, or little-understood ideas, giving them weight, and making them more widely understood.

Investing and Providing

Offering a means to give members the resources they need to carry out their main activities.


Bringing together different people or groups of people.

Community Building

Promoting and sustaining the values and standards of individuals or organizations.

Learning and Facilitating

Helping members carry out their activities more efficiently and effectively.

CoPs in ADB

Informal networks first emerged in ADB in the mid-1990s. In 2001, ADB's medium-term strategy 2001–2005 emphasized the need to create internal knowledge networks that draw on existing and evolving expertise of ADB staff. Consistent with this, ADB introduced the concept of CoPs when it reorganized in 2002: it established then 19 committees and networks across 9 sectors and 10 themes.

Regular monitoring of CoP performance led to the amalgamation of 10 committees and the appointment of new committee chairs in 2005. Another 4 CoPs were established in the following years.

In 2009, ADB approved its Knowledge Management Action Plan, 2009-2011. Four pillars support it—sharpening the knowledge focus in ADB’s operations, empowering the CoPs, strengthening external knowledge partnerships, and further enhancing staff learning and skills development.

The second pillar highlights CoPs as an instrument to promote knowledge management and learning in ADB. The plan of action identified ways to

  • empower the CoPs to drive change
  • promote exchange of ideas and good practices
  • engage in external partnerships
  • upgrade and harness technical knowledge, skills, and experiences among peers.

Today, ADB supports 2 types of CoPs:

  • ADB-hosted: Totaling 14, the CoPs’ membership consist of ADB staff. They are further grouped into formal, known as sector and thematic committees, and informal networks.
  • External: members come from ADB's partner countries and institutions. These include the CoPs on Managing for Development Results (CoP-MfDR), Evaluation Cooperation Group Network (ECG-Net), and Monitoring and Evaluation.

CoP mandate

The ADB-hosted CoPs contribute or advise on

  • general strategic directions of the priority sectors and themes
  • ADB-wide sector/thematic work, including inputs to sector and thematic reports
  • ADB-wide knowledge products and services, including good practices, technical and flagship publications
  • staffing issue, including skills mix and staff participation in external learning events

Their contributions to expanding the knowledge base come in the form of knowledge sharing and learning events, regional studies in aid of project design and implementation, partnerships with external development entities, and publications.