Although collaborative improvement initiatives in health care have been garnering much attention in clinical and management literature, research into their organization and social facilitation is still underdeveloped. This gap is significant because although it is a promising innovation, the model is difficult to execute and is yet to be proven effective. (Grimshaw &Eccles, 2004; Sheaff & Pilgrim, 2006; Mittman, 2004)
Knowledge translation literature recommends a standardized format for reporting operational insights from CoP implementation. (Li et al, 2009) One of the biggest benefits of CoPs is they are tailored to specific cultures and traditions within different organizational units. However, this competitive advantage presents the biggest challenge for standardised monitoring and evaluation. The only common denominator is a social facilitation phenomenon observed in CoPs. To describe it, evaluators must measure and understand community and organizational context in CoPs (Cheadle et al, 1998). To accomplish this, we need to break down a social facilitation process in CoPs into measurable steps and develop adequate evaluation tools.
Building on knowledge management concepts, we suggest documenting common features of CoPs under the four categories: Innovation, Knowledge Transfer, Social Capital and Organizational Memory. These four categories are described in details elsewhere. (Fung-Kee-Fung et al, 2009)
We hope that the proposed surrogate of the important ‘soft’ measures of organizational context and cultural setting will help accelerate the generation of valid evidence from different collaborative improvement initiatives.